Rules Kids Won’t Learn In School

Similar versions of these rules have floated around the internet for a while. Since 2000, they have erroneously been attributed to Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, but he didn’t write them. It is my understanding that these basic rules were, in some form, originally part of an OP ED piece written by Charles J. Sykes and printed in the San Diego Union Tribune in September, 1996. They are now part of a published and much longer list, which I have not read, but would heartily recommend based on what I have included below.

You will have to mentally adjust some of the specific examples in order to reflect today’s popular culture and inflation-ridden economics. But, the basic truths below remain as applicable today as they were then. In fact, my parents taught me these same things, although not in the same words, when I was growing up in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s.  I would guess that today’s teens will not like these truths any better than I did at their age.  My parents were right though. Bless them for having the wisdom and courage to speak the truth to me even when it wasn’t pleasant, and I didn’t want to hear it.

It is a great encouragement to me that within the homeschooling community, some of the problems we so often see in an age-segregated, school-based educational system, seem to be less common-place. It may have to do with the simple fact that mothers who spend all day with their children are less likely to tolerate bad behavior when confronted with it all day, every day.  Funny how that works. . .

Our principal job as parents is to give our children the tools and skills they will need to successfully navigate their way into adulthood. We do them no favors by coddling them and continually excusing their bad behavior. When we hold them to a higher standard, we give them the structure to stand confidently, independently in a world that cares little about how they feel.  We give them a gift far greater than any electronic gadget or new car. We help them to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them and their self-esteem or their desires. We show our love most when we tolerate their whining, spoiled, “sense of entitlement” behavior least.

You might guess that this is a subject I feel somewhat strongly about. You would be right. My heartfelt thanks to Mr. Sykes for his work and the truth it represents.

Here are the rules:

Some Rules Kids Won’t Learn In School

Unfortunately, there are some things that children should be learning in school, but don’t. Not all of them have to do with academics. As a modest back-to-school offering, here are some basic rules that may not have found their way into the standard curriculum.

Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase, “It’s not fair,” 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.

Rule No. 2: The real world won’t care as much about your self-esteem as your school does. It’ll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain it’s not fair. (See Rule No. 1)

Rule No. 3: Sorry, but you won’t make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won’t be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn’t have a Gap label.

Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait ’til you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you feel about it.

Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping. They called it “opportunity.” They weren’t embarrassed to be making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

Rule No. 6: It’s not your parents’ fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of “It’s my life,” and “You’re not the boss of me,” and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it’s on your dime. Don’t whine about it, or you’ll sound like a Baby Boomer.

Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t. In some schools, they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone’s feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2, and Rule No. 4)

Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don’t get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day: for eight hours. And you don’t get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we’re at it, very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)

Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your
problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.

Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

Rule No. 12:  Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you’re out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That’s what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for “expressing yourself” with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.

Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young, and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven’t seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school’s a bother, and life can be depressing. But someday you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

You’re welcome.

By Charles J. Sykes

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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