Posted by: Pagan Muse | 02/06/2015

Success?

Young people in the UK are in the middle of taking their exams just now. I have quite a few friends whose children are among them.  It brings back memories of my two going through it and all the traumas and stress that accompanies exams in this country. The teachers really do pile it on at this time, and it is so unnecessary. I quite consciously did not do this to my boys and got really annoyed with the teachers for trying to stress them out. Teachers are paid bonuses for results now so it’s not surprising that they want the students to do well. It just seemed to me that they should perhaps pay more attention to the learning (or not) that is going on for the years before the exams instead of trying to cram it all into heads in the last month before.

My two did not panic as much at the sound of the word exam as their classmates because they had had some years in the American school  system before coming to the UK (or back to the UK in the case of my eldest) where quizzes and exams are often and not life-determining. I’m not for one moment saying the US education system is better than the UK as it’s not- not at all. But, I do think that the UK puts far too much emphasis on one exam coming at the end of years of study. It is not really a test of intelligence, but of memory. How much of the nonsense that has been pushed into their minds can they regurgitate back. It seems designed to break children, not prepare them for a happy life.

I’ve seen parents pile on the pressure too – the child must be X or Y or their lives will not be worth living. I’ve actually heard a few people say that! What twaddle! When my eldest went for the three days of interviews on application for Oxford University, he told us how nervous all the other candidates were (there were 25 in his group competing for 5 places). They had mostly gone to fee-paying schools and had been coached intensively for this interview process. These students were under the greatest pressure to get into this college and were understandably completely stressed out.

I am not impressed with parents who do this to their kids, it is the opposite of loving and respecting your child. My son knew that it didn’t matter one bit if he was accepted or not, only that he had tried as he wanted to. If he was told no, he would simply go to Manchester Uni. We didn’t care one bit. Therefore, he enjoyed his three days in a strange new world among rich folks (he especially liked the food and wine they offered) and won a place. He enjoyed his time at Oxford so much that he is still there, working in one of the labs. It was his choice to try to go there, his choice to stay on regardless of any difficulties which life always throws at us. He is where he wants to be doing what he wants to do. That is all I have ever wanted for him – to be happy. If surfing all day and BBQing at night made him happy then I would have encouraged him to do that. His talent is science, specifically physics, so that is what he does.

We were the same with our youngest, who is happily working in Manchester having gotten his degree of choice – Archaeology. I was quite frankly surprised that he wanted to go to Uni at all but he did and he worked hard to achieve a first class degree (an impressive achievement for a dyslexic studying a subject that is largely written down). He enjoyed his time at Preston every bit as much as his brother did at Oxford. They both have made good friends and had valuable life experiences.

I cannot be more proud of my two boys. Not, like some seem to think, because they have achieved what society considers to be the correct thing (ie. a good degree), but because they achieved what they set out to achieve, with no pressure from anyone. When they asked me what they should do at the beginning of their 10th year at school – when you decide which exams you are going to study for – I told them to follow their hearts and do what will make them happy in life. If that didn’t work out then you go on and work in an office or sweep the streets (both fine jobs, just not what my boys wanted), but at least you will have tried. They both had struggles, as we all do, but they achieved their goals through persistence and hard work.

I honestly think that the only choice they could have made that would have disappointed me would have been to join the military, that is the ultimate in brainless obedience. Still, if they had chosen that I know that I would have supported them anyhow. It’s their lives and I only want them to be happy. Truly.

I read an article recently about how high the suicide rate is among young folks worried about their exam results. They actually believed that their lives would not be worth living if they didn’t pass the maths or science exams. Eternal shame on whoever told them that!

It’s all a hoax. Life will be different, but it does not end just because your child does not become a doctor or lawyer! Who do these parents think they are to try to live their child’s life for them? I view putting this level of pressure on a child as nothing less than child abuse. At the very least it’s disrespect, not allowing them to be the unique individual that they are, but forcing them to conform to an inhumane system that only wants robots.

Of course, society has its input too in the way that ‘success’ is judged. I saw a photo of David Cameron and a group of his fellows at Eton this week. The newspaper described what they had all done with their lives. It was the usual list of financiers, entrepreneurs and politicians with one exception. They called him ‘the dropout’. One bloke had gone to the Far East and started his own aquatic tourism business. He lived there with his wife, a local girl, and their children. The tone of the small piece was that he should feel ashamed that he’d squandered his privileged upbringing.  We should shun him for not living up to their expectations.

I felt the opposite – I think he’s the only true success. He’s probably the only one of the bunch who is truly happy with his life. He’s expressing his uniqueness, doing what he loves to do surrounded by people who love him – that is the true meaning of success. He may not be a billionaire but he has much more valuable things – peace of mind, Love, contentment. May he continue to thrive.

People do seem to forget that none of these young men chose to go to Eton. Their parents chose to send them away to be indoctrinated from a young age by strangers. Therefore, to judge them harshly because of it is stupid, but people do it every day. I feel sorry for them when I think of the upheaval of leaving your family at age 7 to live among uncaring strangers. To think of growing up only surrounded by those of your same sex and social class horrifies me. The men in that picture are now running our country. They were raised in a very rarefied atmosphere that bears little relation to the world the rest of us live in. It goes some way to explaining why they are so emotionless and uncaring of the consequences of their actions on anyone else. This applies to all the political and business classes now as they all, with noble exceptions, went to private and exclusive schools.

Every day we see the rich scampering around like chickens without heads in their quest for more and more money. (Tony and Cherie Blair come to mind here). They are fools. They don’t seem to realise that there will never be enough money to satisfy them. I’ve never wished to join their ranks, hence to most I am a failure.

I see this every time someone asks me what I do. I see the dismissal in their eyes when I say I’m a healer or an artist or back in the day when I proudly said ‘I’m a mum’. None of these things make you rich you see, therefore in most people’s eyes they are irrelevant, hence I am irrelevant. These people are wrong.

They are stuck firmly into the Matrix. I feel sorry for them too. When you don’t realise you are stuck in a mind prison, or Matrix, you do nothing to try to escape from it. You will be stuck in the continuous cycle of unsatisfying life after unsatisfying life until you become conscious to it and pull yourself out.

I have a degree, in Fashion Merchandising, but chose to stay home to raise my sons rather than pursue a career. I have never regretted that decision. Still I encounter those who say I ‘wasted’ my degree. They don’t understand that all our experiences form our life, all are valuable. They think I wasted it by not using it to make lots of money. They say I miss the point of Uni. I say they miss the point of life. I say they should stop focussing on money and start focussing on what really matters. I now have qualifications in several forms of healing and herbalism, but I don’t use those to make money either. I do not consider myself a failure and don’t really care if others do – they are entitled to their opinion.

So, what is the solution to exam stress? Stop putting stress on the kids who are taking them. Simple as that. Show them that it really doesn’t matter. Life continues regardless, happiness continues regardless. There are loads of examples of people who didn’t pass exams well but have gone on to live productive, happy, even wealthy, lives.

I am proud to be a ‘dropout’ of a profoundly sick society. Life is what we make it, it’s as simple as that.

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