One of the great lines from the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is when a man on his front porch, after listening to a long, meandering conversation between George Banks and his girl as they stroll down the sidewalk, stands to his feet and shouts: “Why don’t you go ahead and kiss her?” Disgusted by George’s verbose-ness while staring at a beautiful young woman, the man concludes, “Youth is wasted on the wrong people.”
It’s a sentiment I’ve thought about a lot, especially in the context of education.
I have pondered many times how if I could go back to school now – wow – the things that I would learn!
In all honesty, I really didn’t learn much in high school. I look at what my high schoolers are learning now and the comparison isn’t remotely fair. I got “Ds” in science. My biology teacher droned on about all the rock concerts he went to and how his entire bedroom was covered wall to wall in concert t-shirts. Well, what do you know? I guess I did learn something. If I was struggling in a class, there was no help but at least I got to play baseball after school. The best class, most useful class, without a doubt the class which I have used more than any other in high school was a class called “Business.” For six weeks, I learned to type fairly well on an electric typewriter, having no clue that within ten years I’d have a laptop which would require those very skills I attained. Those six weeks changed everything in the future for me. I can’t imagine if I didn’t learn how to type proficiently. Besides that, what did I learn? I think my high school English teacher was a drunk, or at least those were the rumors.
My kids’ education has surpassed mine in every way possible. They might struggle in classes like I did, but they have already learned and have been exposed to so much more than I ever did at that age.
The problem is, do they know it? Do they understand the opportunity they have right now? Probably not. That’s how things work. We don’t know what we have until later.
If I could go back in time and re-do school based upon what I know now, I could be brilliant. There are so many topics that I’m interested in. Back then, there was only two: baseball and eating. But now, I love politics, and English, and history, and global issues, and culture, and language. What great questions I would have for my teachers! (Would they know the answers?) I do think that I could even be a little bit interested in science. Or at least I have enough questions about scientific topics to keep me interested.
Schooling is wasted on the youth! Adults need schooling just as much!
Of course, it actually isn’t wasted. It’s part of the cycle. Learn how to learn even if you don’t learn much the first time around, but hopefully the youth of today will take that small spark and let it ignite into an explosion of knowledge sometime in the future. And hopefully adults won’t look back and wonder what could have been, but rather will realize that it’s never to late to learn, grow, and mature.
So education might have been wasted on your youth, but don’t let it be wasted in your adulthood.
(I still would like to improve my high school grades. Maybe someday that time machine will be a reality.)