1. Goals and focus. Sure we were given homework. Sometimes a helluva lot of it. But homework doesn’t really address itself. It overburdens a student into spending entire evenings or even nights fighting for some essay or a score but it never includes instructions. Students are left on their own figuring out how to properly manage their time, set priorities and achieve their goals, and most never do. They treat homework and school classes as annoyances, unavoidable pains that have to be endured until eventually freedom comes. Never are they told that freedom could be there this very day while doing homework, and that finishing school won’t yield any relief in life unless they have learned how to manage said life. A 1952 Yale study revealed that only 3% of the graduating class members had written goals. Twenty years later, another survey of the class indicated that the net worth of the 3% of the class that had written goals now exceeded the net worth of the other 97% of the class! That 3% also had statistically fewer divorces, and an overall better quality of life. Well, it’s just numbers. But those numbers presented by a great teacher with charisma and vision would sure as hell have made me think!
  2. A healthy mind in a sane body. Was it once a week? We would go to the field and play team sports. I was also enrolled into a very intensive sports-study gymnastics program, which I hated because it was not about my own improvement or training; it was about, because and for competition. What I didn’t know, and it was never explained, is that there is no dichotomy of the mind-body machine. There are, among the average population, no brains on one side and muscles on the other, no one group mocking the other, unable to grasp or achieve the level of performance of their opposite. What there is, is a bunch of innocents who have been lead to believe they are better brains or better muscles, and that this simply has specialized them a little more and is quite acceptable. Bullshit! The mind cannot work without the body and vice versa. They both need to be in top shape. Keeping up that shape should be of the utmost importance throughout our life. And always, always, they should work and play together. Why was I never told that eating well would make me a better student? Why wasn’t it explained that more exercise would help me concentrate on homework? And why oh why didn’t they tell me that the mind has to be trained just as hard as the body? They implied it by forcing me to go to school. They just never said it!
  3. Right and wrong. I was given plenty of wrongs, and a few rights. Wrong to be distracted in class. Wrong to be lazy. Wrong to chew gum. Wrong to be different. Wrong to fail an exam. Wrong to speak during class. Right to understand that all of these are wrong. Right to play the game. Right to be a good boy. But these are jokes. They have nothing to do with reality. The reality of our world is that all humans need a set of values. These values are acquired, they are not inherited. Human values define the world by defining us and so we should be educated towards values just as we are with biology and calculus. Values can be shaped into tools. Kids needs to learn why lying is wrong, not just told not to. They must be shown how to give. How to care. How to commit. How to be fair. How to be strong. Honest. Forgiving. Loving. Hardworking. Patient. How not to take themselves too seriously. Where else than school can one learn all this? After school, it’s too late. Habits have been taken, the mind has become lazy and sometimes already wandered to the dark side. But no, I was learning about sine and cosine. How very helpful that has proven to be.
  4. Play the saxophone. My whole life would have been different. But, hey, they taught me to play the flute.
  5. Love, fear and other foundations of life. As a kid in school, I was never told to look inside of me and face my demons. If anything, I was lectured that such demons didn’t exist. Be brave, they said. They meant for me to be quiet. Granted, adults who have not conquered their own fears cannot possibly teach about them. So we end up in a giant vicious circle. Still, as a child, I think I would have loved to learn more about my emotions. I would have enjoyed, with the curious and innocent morbidity of children, being lead to look into my own suffering, to venture towards the heart of my fears, and to explore the very taboo world of my young linkings and dislikes. I think that if it was explained properly, I could have understood much earlier that fear can be faced, and tamed. That it doesn’t have to govern our lives. And that love will fare so much better, when the fear is gone. School could have taught me about myself; instead, it chose to teach me about itself – an outdated, mostly useless and self-deprecating institution that manages only to waste a few precious years of very precious lives, wasting time on theory when so much practice is needed. Mr. Keating had it right; he got fired for it. Who will pick up the flame?