Sunday, April 3, 2011

The "Real World" Myth

Brace yourselves, readers, for I am about to shatter some serious illusions. Ready? No, you're not. Or, at least, that's what the systems that define youth would tell you. Many would say that the purpose of public school is to prepare you for adult life, no scratch that, they're to prepare you for college or university which will then prepare you for adult life. Maybe. But does anyone realize that while they say they are giving you the tools you need to succeed, they are also building the shakiest support system they can imagine?* I know I'm throwing around some hefty accusations but somebody has to.

The phrase that I've heard so often, triggering various reactions from me as I've grown older, is "the real world." This is a classic fear tactic.

If I don't graduate high school, how will I ever be prepared for the real world?

At first, this idea confused me. What world have I been living in if not the real one? What's so unreal about my world? After that, I started to disagree. On my eighteenth birthday, I'm not going to open some mysterious door and transition to another realm of responsibility. If someone is going to push me into a "real world" after however many years of my life, bring it on. Until then, I'm going to continue living in *my* real world and cease preparations for the next one. And at this point, I'm a little angry.

Who are teachers and authority figures to belittle my world? Because that's what they're doing, even if no one realizes it. By waving some mystical "real world" over ours heads in which we have to take care of ourselves and deal with actual problems and face "reality" and issues beyond our comprehension, they have made our lives infinitely smaller. Frankly, I am sick of adults looking at teenagers and marginalizing us. I am tired of being seen as less when my opinions and problems are just as real as any other person's.

So this is me rejecting that arbitrary framework. No longer will I operate with the assumption that I have to prepare for a world of scarcity and imponderable challenges. I recognize that life isn't easy but I refuse to believe that I can't handle it.

I call for an education system that respects its students, a world where young people are not treated as invalids who aren't ready and can't possibly understand but as curious, naturally driver learners. I want to be treated like a person, not a teenager. I want to be thrown in over my head. I want to tackle problems that seem insurmountable. I want to put to rest this idea that our world is pretend and a little bit silly.

My world is just as real as yours. Thank you for respecting that.

*This isn't about teachers, mind you. I think teachers are great, though I haven't had a lot of personal connection with them. I'm talking about the system that teachers work within. The system, not the teachers, are where my accusations are aimed.

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