What I've Learned in my "Education"

For me, like a lot of bright people born wired a little differently, traditional education presented a challenge that impacted my entire life; missed opportunities, disappointment, under-achievement which cast the die for a hard life. Still today, my school challenges lie at the base of a self-loathing that, left unchecked, leads me to self-destructive behavior. I see this pattern repeated among a younger generation and it makes me wonder why there isn't a solution. Can my experience and the experiences of people like me, provide a hack of the system to allow us to succeed?

Today, in the US, we have a great system that provides free education through 12th Grade. Lucky enough to have a variety of educational experiences, both free and paid by my parents. I went to public schools both in the US and abroad, as well as private-day-schools and boarding schools. I managed to fail, in most of these, quite dramatically, culminating in living in boarding house in Augusta, ME, washing dishes for a living at age 16.

The common theme in the failures? Me. Reading the report cards and evaluations, I see the same thing repeated; "Thomas has so much potential, but he doesn't do the work." which maddened me because I expended huge effort which no one saw. And I saw my peers breeze through. This drove me to conclude my basic stupidity. To avoid the embarrassment of my failures as an indictment of my intelligence I created a cover story; I chose to fail. 

As a parent now, I can see the grim disappointment in my parents as they looked at my prospects. My father, after all, had gone to Harvard. He was a successful journalist. As a product of the system I was failing in, he must have agreed with the assessments. 

There is a slapstick element in this story. You know: Charlie Chaplin trying to go in the door everyone is coming out of, again and again, until finally he catches a break and gets through. Life is hard for him. Life was hard for me. But like Charlie, my failures, humiliation and heartbreak did nothing to quell my desire to learn. I LIKED learning. I read, wrote, dreamed of accomplishments, was influenced by teachers and engaged in philosophical debate. I dragged myself across the finish line after a boarding school post-graduate year, in my most successful educational experience. Looking at what happened that allowed me to succeed should have been a clue to how I could succeed in further education. But I launched myself back into the same system that I failed in before.  


A closer look - Failing Strategies - Readak speed reading, Kingsbury Institute and tutoring

Great Teachers - Mike Kirchberg, Henry Milton, Stan Brown, Ken Grant, Lili Brown

College Failures - NYU, UMD, UDC, George Mason. A maddening repeat of basics... Why? A success model. 

The Hacks - Concentration. Do what you're good at. Don't Quit. I didn't HAVE to take that? 


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