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Daily Rethink: What did you learn at school that you would not have learned anywhere else?
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John Spencer's profile photoGreg Garner's profile photoAnnabelle Howard's profile photoTom Panarese's profile photo
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Sometimes I get really critical about school and I forget just how much I learned. School was a powerful experience, negative and positive.
 
I learned to take risks. The closed-community of peers that is rarely experienced similarly beyond the school walls gave me the opportunity to learn that it's ok to try new things and (maybe more importantly) it's ok to fail. The social ramifications of this kind of learning cannot be experienced in isolation.
 
I had just about the opposite environment from you, +Greg Garner. I was a full-scholarship student at an exclusive private boarding school in England where entitlement was the norm and a good marriage was the goal. I learned it was OK to have a totally different background and OK to be an ambitious female. This was a very, very hard lesson to learn from 11-18, cut off from my family. However, it was valuable and could not have been learned if I'd attended the local school.
 
I learned that I wasn't as smart as I thought I was? Okay, kind of kidding. I'm sure if I think about it there is plenty that I learned in school that I could have learned elsewhere and vice-versa. But here's the reality: I grew up in a nice area with a very good public school district and both of my parents worked very hard to make sure that my sister and I had what we needed, including the education that came from that very good public school district. They couldn't have "un-schooled" me even if they wanted to because that would have meant losing quite a bit of what they'd worked so hard for.

I have heard the "I learned nothing in school that I couldn't learn on my own" argument from hacks like Lisa Nielsen and her cronies before and the more I think about it, the more I think it's a bit of a fallacy. I mean, I learned how to make french toast in my parents' kitchen and not by taking home economics but does that mean I didn't need school or that school shouldn't exist?
 
I find it interesting +Greg Garner that you had the experience of taking risks. I think I became a little more risk averse because of school. But I also became humble about my abilities like +Tom Panarese mentioned. There was something in the diversity of the student population that helped me see that I wasn't perfect. And yet . . . I slowly learned to see where I was genuinely talented. So for me, school was really a mix of positive and negative, beautiful and broken.
 
Which is what school is supposed to be, really. It's supposed to be a challenge and sometimes it is a challenging environment as well, which is a way it reflects the world.
 
My mentor from college used to say that if education is about growth, then some teachers are like a light, guiding you, some like water feeding you and some are like decomposing shit all around you. You need the shit to grow some solid roots.
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