14. Not everyone likes school. I've always been struck by this passage of Orwell's in The Road to Wigan Pier:
The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a 'job' should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly. The idea of a great big boy of eighteen, who ought to be bringing a pound a week home to his parents, going to school in a ridiculous uniform and even being caned for not doing his lessons! Just fancy a working-class boy of eighteen allowing himself to be caned! He is a man when the other is still a baby. Ernest Pontifex, in Samuel Butler's Way of All Flesh, after he had had a few glimpses of real life, looked back on his public school and university education and found it a 'sickly, debilitating debauch'. There is much in middle-class life that looks sickly and debilitating when you see it from a working-class angle.McArdle might also have observed that the people who get elected to office and those who compose education policy are good at school. School worked for them. A strong element of self-flattery contaminates school policy prescriptions. Legislators and policy wonks would discredit their own credentials if they doubted the value of school.
It's still true: the mania to get more and more people into college is the brain child of people who think that school is fun, and that anyone who doesn't go is being deprived of something like a trip to Disneyland packaged with a job guarantee.
Lots of people think school is rather miserable, and they wish to leave as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the "school is fun" crowd has made an education a virtual pre-requisite for a stable and well paying job in this century. If you don't like school, and aren't good at it, what do you do? Spend the rest of your life popping chicken tenders into the deep fry at Popeye's? Or deal drugs?
My sisters give me great books for Christmas. I had forgotten Orwell's criticism of school in The Road to Wigan Pier.