One Big Regret

As an adolescent, I heard a lot about the things I’d regret during high school. Most of them were things people told me I’d regret not doing. I’d regret not going to the dance, to the football games, to the parties. As an introvert with [at that time] undiagnosed social anxiety, all of those things sounded miserable. So, staying home sounded not only preferable, but the only sure way to survive.

Looking back, I do have a few regrets. I regret missing opportunities: not kissing my first real love as we lay together on the football field one Summer afternoon. I regret trusting authority: I let go of this idea back in high school because my biology teacher told me it wouldn’t work. I regret not believing in myself: I filled notebooks with poetry, but I am still unpublished.

Those are minor regrets, and I don’t regret missing any of the social distractions people told me were so important. There are only two major regrets from the time I served in high school.

The first of these is that I spent three of my four high school years in a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship with one girl. In hindsight, that was obviously a big  developmental mistake. But that is a topic for my other blog.

Right now, I want to focus on the decision that I regret above all others in my quarter-century. As my sophomore year drew to a close, I considered dropping out of high school, getting my GED, and enrolling in college. I never did it. And, to this day, I wonder how much better my life would be had I decided to. How would I be different; how would I be better?

I’d have two additional years of experience under my belt, at the very least. This post is not about exploring the what-ifs, though. I want to talk about the uselessness of high school for someone like me, for most people.

Going into high school, and for my first year, I was academically successful. I had straight A’s. I had straight A’s sophomore year too. But, during the second semester, I realized that failing in high school was inconsequential. While I received A’s in all of my other classes, I purposefully failed out of Honors English. I didn’t skip class. I did most of the work, I did all of the reading, I participated actively in classroom discussions. I just didn’t turn in anything worth credit. Despite learning as much as any other student, I went out of my way to avoid passing.

English earned my scorn specifically. As I examined the school district’s requirements for graduation, I grew more and more frustrated. In order to earn my diploma, I had to complete only two years of math, only two years of science, two years of a foreign language, one year of PE, no vocational classes, no life-preparatory classes, and four-frakking-years of English.

I really like math, and science, and I may have actually become fluent with another year of Spanish. I took Personal Finance (one of the best and most useful classes I completed) as an elective. And I failed out of English.

I saw that I was not going to learn anything new. We were going to write the same types of papers, read different books but do the same things with them, and gain no additional useful knowledge or skills. I was already a good writer, and I already enjoyed reading literature. I wanted to spend my time in classes where I felt challenged. So, I took math and science classes as elective credits. Of course, these were alongside the English classes I was forced to take.

At the end of sophomore year my family explored some options. No one offered any real guidance, however, as I tried to make a decision about my education. I felt like I was being humored, so I finally just shut my mouth, hung my head, and dragged myself through two more years.

Those two years of misery were for naught. I have a useless high school diploma. No one cares that I graduated from high school and I could have earned my B.S. without it.

That is my point and the source of my regret.

This is more relevant to more students today. Even a college degree can’t help you compete in the job market. Why waste time jumping through hoops in the public school system? As soon as a student feels ready, they should begin taking college classes at a local community college or university. AP classes don’t count. I took those and they were useless.

Anything you learn in high school that you actually need, you just learn more thoroughly in college anyway.

If I should ever have children, I am going to be watching closely for signs that they are no longer intellectually stimulated by the classes aimed at leaving no child behind. They will grow up knowing that college is something they can start when they are ready, not once they’ve completed some arbitrary number of watered-down, repetitive classes.

In general, high school was a miserable experience. I regret putting myself through it for longer than necessary to absolutely zero gain.

Looking back, was your high school experience as useless as mine? Or do you think it was worthwhile to go through all four years? What are your high school or adolescent regrets?

4 thoughts on “One Big Regret

  1. I agree completely. That’s all :)

  2. You’re definitely not alone, Jan and I have both decided that high school in particular was such a waste of time we aren’t sending our daughter Ali to school. She’s a smart kid which means public schooling won’t help her at all. I don’t mean to disregard some fantastic teachers out there, but they are few and far between and the system is kinda fucked.

    • Robby, you’re absolutely right. I’m glad to hear you two aren’t sending her through the public school system. It caters to the lowest common denominator. With the two of you at her disposal, she will dramatically outpace her peers.

      This country needs a dramatic shift in education. Our current system is broken and useless.

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