Good Grades = Job = Money = Happiness?

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I recently read Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence. I thought it was a fabulous novel — I loved the characters and the plot and I could talk a lot more about those — but the message of education particularly caught me/

Frances, the protagonist, has only one goal: studying English at Cambridge university. It’s all she’s ever wanted. And…her story really struck a chord with me. I’m quite an academic person, and I tend to be good at exams. But I don’t feel — like I’ve worked that hard for that, you know? Obviously I do revise. Yet I it isn’t like like I’ve poured my soul into it. I hate that my academic success can be the only thing that defines me. I’m the smart, quiet girl.

Of course I’m incredibly grateful that by some miracle I slightly understand exams. (I feel extremely arrogant for saying that. I REALLY DON’T MEAN IT TO SOUND THAT WAY.) So much of our life depends on them, yet I don’t feel particularly pleased with the school system; even as it’s benefitting me. I don’t like that my entire life is focused and depends on a few hours in an exam hall. I’ll be the first to stress that being good at exams is not the same as being intelligent. People tell me that “It’s easy for me to say,” since I’m the one getting good grades. But I don’t feel intelligent because I made up some waffle English analysis. I really dislike seeing that genuinely clever people are upset by feeling worthless just because they didn’t get a good mark in an exam. It seems incredibly upsetting and anxiety-provoking.

A lot of people think I love English. It’s true that I do love words. That does not mean I  want to study English at A-Level or university. I don’t enjoy analysing books. I like writing, but I feel like it’s something you can hone alone. As far as I can see creativity is sucked more and more out of the school English curriculum as you progress. I don’t want to spoil Radio Silence for you, but I really appreciated the message that uni isn’t for everyone. It’s okay to want to do other stuff. You don’t have to take the one that will look best to other people.

I would like my entire school life to not be focused around getting a job. Of course that’s super important to support yourself as an adult, but I’m not living just to earn money and survive. I’m not learning just to earn money. If I enjoy a subject, odds are it’s because I’m interested. I just want to learn it! I want to make new discoveries and find elegant methods and analysis or ANYTHING. Doing everything for a job is like…doing everything for money. They’re very closely linked. Having a job and money does not equal happiness.

We all like books about adventures, or with wonderful character relationships. Characters who just sit there and work hard are deemed boring goody two-shoes, even if we’re told studying is a good thing. And I know life isn’t a book. I wish people would remember that life isn’t spending all your time in a textbook, either.

It’s amazing that I’ve had the oppurtunities I do — I mean, I go to a good school (and I can go to school). I know I’m addressing all the problems with no solutions, but still: I feel like there should be some better way to do thing. With less of a focus on academia and exams, or something. School can be so stress-inducing. (It’s probably the number one source of anxiety for me, at least.) I wish that we weren’t told that we have to do everything in order to go to uni and get a good job and earn money. Our lives are not defined by a letter on a piece of paper.*

*OR MAYBE A NUMBER. If they change the grade system like they’re planning to, because everyone needs confusing more.  Ahem.

what do you think about school? do you find exams stressful? have you read radio silence? (YOU ALL TOTALLY SHOULD; it’s fabulous.)

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14 thoughts on “Good Grades = Job = Money = Happiness?

  1. WORDPRESS JUST ATE MY COMMENT AND NOW I’M ANGRY. URGH. IT WAS FINISHED TOO.
    Anyhow.
    I really relate to this post! I think that some people definitely do downgrade school a lot (especially on tumblr, I’ve noticed, which really sucks because okay maybe not everybody wants to learn linear regression but that doesn’t mean the entire education system is flipping useless and you will get nothing out of it) but then others stress over it. And you’re completely right, life isn’t just a textbook, we need to remember that there are other things out there and that a tiny grade on a classwork assessment isn’t going to change your life, but I think we also forget that yeah, school’s majorly important and you do kind of need it to get started in life, but we needn’t stress that much. That being said, I honestly feel it’s practically kinda impossible to get a good job that you’ll enjoy if you don’t go to college, at least in today’s society. UGH. this is a confusing subject.
    I…am actually fairly smart? I’m in advanced classes and was in the gifted program in elementary school and all that. I’m good at exams because honestly I think I don’t stress over them. Standardized tests at my age are currently a waste of time- like the SAT and ACT actually do matter, but the one’s I’m currently taking- because they do nothing to affect your classes or your next year. They literally are grading the teachers, which makes me kind of weirdly mad, but it’s also practically an entire month of doing nothing, so I guess that’s all right.
    ANYHOW. Sorry for rant-rambling in your comments, I have a lot of feelings on this subject.

    • Yeah, I think there is a definite negative attitude on Tumblr towards school. (Along with the many other problems of Tumblr.) I think it’s really important to separate myself from that – I mean, I sympathise with them but I also haven’t experienced that level of stress…? I don’t know if that’s to do with the American school system, since the majority of Tumblr users are in the US.
      I do get what you’re saying! School and education are SO important in life – not just for jobs but also for yourself as a person. But I do still feel as though school doesn’t do enough to support students’ mental health; it’s like up to us to tell ourselves not to stress against the constant tide of EXAMS YOU MUST DO WELL REVISE 5 HOURS GO TO OXBRIDGE. And I think the education system is quite old-fashioned and after new reforms is moving even more towards academia, benefitting those good at this style of written exams, and devaluing creatives + arts. (Of course, this is all my own personal experience. I can’t speak for everyone.) Since I was trying to point that out, I didn’t mention some of the many things I do actually enjoy about school!
      We have exams right now but they’re just internal school ones. They do affect the classes we’re streamed in, though! (If they do get streamed.) WAAIT do you have a month of exams?!? Woah, I thought I was doing bad with one week haha. 😛
      Oh no, don’t worry – discussion is always good. 🙂 And I’ve now written a comment just as long haha. (Especially when I sort of already am writing to start a discussion. My own half of the argument.)

      • I honestly understand how a lot of them hate the stressful part of it- and honestly it’s not crazy in the States. We probably have about as much stress as y’all. It’s just downgrading the entire thing which bugs me.
        Yeah, I totally understand! I think a lot of the time they forget/don’t bother to remind us that it’s not the end of the world if we get one C on a quiz or project. A kid in my Social Studies class came up with this idea for one of our assignments for a room with the counselors and it’s just, like, a quiet room where they can go to get help on homework or if they’re just stressed and it was such a lovely idea. It probably wouldn’t work…but it’s a lovely idea.
        Yeah, I had some midterms for some of my high school classes? It was weird. AHAHA SORRY NO they aren’t the entire month, they’re half of one week (they start on a Wednesday for whatever godforsaken reason) and then half of the next. SORRY. It just feels like the entire month because all you do is take practice exams and discuss it.
        (Honestly I’ve no clue what the education system is like in the UK and other parts of the world. Do you call our Social Studies that? Do y’all do grading differently? HONESTLY I AM CONFUZZLED AND IT WEIRDS ME OUT THAT I DON’T KNOW THIS STUFF.)

      • Yeah, I don’t really know… I just have a very negative impression from Tumblr. (Which isn’t always, y’know, 100% truthful haha.) Downgrading the entire thing isn’t productive at all! That would be so great — although I feel like some people would use it to muck around. I thought maybe we should have afternoons off every now and then or something to try and stop stress. (I think France has Wednesdays off. I’m not totally sure.)
        OHHH I see. *cries* EXAMS DRAG ON FOR SO LONG. They loom for a month before and then you keep going through tests.
        (Nooo we don’t have Social Studies! Or at least not at my age group. I don’t actually know what it is haha. I think you guys have more varied subjects…? I HAVE NO IDEA. And every school has a different grading, so we have a weird Good-very Good-Inconsistent thing. DIFFERENT SCHOOL SYSTEMS WAT.)

      • Yeah, that was the downside to the idea. I wish we could have afternoons off or something like that! That would be lovely.
        Huh, odd! We have Social Studies, Science, Math, Language Arts/English (though sometimes you have two seperate classes for Language Arts and Reading), and this year I have Spanish, though next I’d like to start French. (COMPARING INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL SYSTEMS IS BOTH FUN AND CONFUSING)

      • WOAH. *goggles* Our sciences are separated into 3 (Physics, Chemistry, Biology), and we all had to take 2 – 3 languages until this year when some people chose to narrow it down. And we have ‘humanities’ = Geography + History and creatives like art, drama and music as well. I have basically dictated all my subjects there, whoops. (YES IT REALLY IS! I feel like I’m learning a lot from it.)

      • Next year when I start high school (AhAaAaA) it gets seperated? 6-8 grade we had Earth, then Life, then Physical science. Only this year am I taking Spanish, though I’m switching. Oooh, humanities is a funky thing to call it! We have our fun stuff (art, drama, music, foreign language [which is weird as all get out that foreign language is considered “optional” and an elective] etc).
        (THIS IS REALLY COOL. I had no clue that’s how y’all grouped stuff. o.O )

      • High school aah the scary place of teen movies. We don’t call them humanities, like, in daily life? But it’s the category to help you choose options i.e. “You will be well-rounded for choosing a modern foreign language and a humanity etc. etc.”
        (YES IT IS. I feel so learned haha.)

  2. Yes. Agreed. I try not to let school define my existence – and I think it helps that I have the blog & the writing & the music to offset it – but I think that if my life was consumed with academics, I would truly go insane. They say that it’s important for adults to have a good work-life balance, and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be the same for younger people; after all, what is going to happen once we graduate and we are in The Real World and there is no more school to take up our time? That is an important thing to think about, I believe. And something that all of us need to answer for ourselves – whether that is with a job, or with children, or whatever else.

    • That’s a great way of putting it — everyone needs to have a balance. (And having teachers understand school is not life would also be good.) Yeah, I think blogging helps me out SO much. If I only had school and did nothing else I’d really be freaking out.

  3. Great post Eve! I actually have this book waiting in my Kindle queue so I’m excited now to start 😀
    It’s funny how I never appreciated school while I was attending it, but now I understood why my professors pushed me as much as they did. I think this is a common mentality. School is a pain, school wastes so much of my time, school is a bore, etc. We never really think about how privileged we are that we actually have access to education, when some don’t even know how to read or write.
    When I was a student, I used to stress a lot about exams. It was meant to be stressful back then, I think. Uni was my favourite time in my student life, but it was also the most toxic. Exams were an everyday occurence, presentations done on a weekly basis, and there were patients’ notes to read and prepare afterwards too. I often asked myself why bother with this crap? What am I doing to myself? XD
    But like I said, I was grateful for that training because it basically served as a stepping stone for me. I am a firm believer that the school system is important and, given the chance, I will always pick uni and higher schools of learning. I agree that it will not necessarily mean happiness for you in the end. We all have our own paths to travel, after all, and it happens that this one is mine.

    • I mean, I am writing this from the perspective of someone currently within school so I think I am inclined to see it negatively! I think I do need to step back sometimes and realise what a wonderful privilege it is. (I do think my school’s great. I’m very lucky.) I’ll probably look back and think I was stressing way too much! There are always things to be improved on, though, I think. I guess they just get smaller.
      I don’t know what I want to do with my life just yet, but I think that’s okay. 🙂 It’s lovely to hear from someone with more perspective than me! And I’m very glad to hear you’ve found the right path for you.

  4. I’m gonna put this book on my TBR! I’m certainly gonna connect with this character because…

    school is very important to me. It always has been, and I don’t see myself not getting a master’s degree in University. I want to do as much school as possible before entering the ”real world” because I love learning new things and knowledge in general.

    I feel you. This is a big question, isn’t it? Do people who excel in exams are necessarily intelligent, and what if they don’t, are they not? I personally believe that people who are ”motivated” at school succeed. Anyone can just remember stuff, if they study (or have a photographic memory).

    • I think education is very complicated! And if we’re all doing the same thing there’s nothing that will fit everyone. I’m glad to hear you’ve found what’s right for you. 🙂
      I still don’t know quite yet…although I do like learning, I’m not that fond of education? And then it’s getting more difficult to find jobs even with degrees, and uni fees. EVERYTHING IS COMPLICATED. *sighs*

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