I’m bed-ridden (or at least house-ridden) by a bout of man-flu that I may have caught from wandering in a park late at night, but that more probably came about because of my conviction that coats are for pussies. As you can see, I’m living on the edge. Dangling right off the ravine, as it were. I suppose I’m just too hardcore for my immune system to keep up with me.
See, I’m well-versed in missing school. It’s what I spent the better part of the last two years doing. It holds no novelties for me whatsoever, and I’m really not enjoying the guilty feeling that if I’m well enough to be typing this, I’m well enough to be in class. I’m indubitably well enough to be studying.
Naturally, the one time that the circumstances are perfect (empty house, no homework, hours at my disposal), I’m void of any motivation to do so.
The tricky thing is that if I stay in Ireland, I don’t need to work to my potential to get my course. I’m applying to some good unis in the UK, but it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t get in — in fact, sometimes I think I’d prefer to stay in Dublin. A former self would’ve been interested in major points for the bragging rights alone, but after bad Junior Cert results and missing so much school, I’ve had to learn to base my identity on things beside academic performance.
Maybe it’s the fact that my head hurts like the dickens, maybe it’s because I tend to try to diminish the value of things at which I don’t expect to succeed, but this is getting me thinking about how much I dislike the Leaving Cert system.
At its core, it’s utilitarian. You’re fishing for grades and points. It doesn’t teach you to value knowledge for its own sake, and in a lot of subjects, the course is so long that it discourages any reading outside of it. In ways, it’s fairer than IQ tests and the like: the emphasis on facts and details over conceptual understanding means that study will get you a lot further than innate intelligence. This makes sense from a college admissions point of view: the hard-working everyman will probably make a better student than the lazy genius.
Still, I personally find intellectual curiosity more important, both for 3rd level and in general, than either hard work or natural brilliance. The Leaving rewards industry a lot and smarts a little, but there are no marks going for a raw, nerdy thirst for knowledge, unless you can channel it into the very specialised absorption and demonstration thereof that the Leaving demands.
That said, I suppose that the true autodidact shouldn’t really require external proof of their knowledge, anyway. Besides, the desire to pick up bits and pieces of useless information will stand you in good stead in other walks of life. And anyway, at its heart, as with most people’s, my complaint is a thinly-veiled variation on ‘Why isn’t the Leaving tailored to suit my particular set of skills at the expense of others whose minds work differently?’
I’m off to take some echinacea. It probably doesn’t work, but if I don’t take it and I remain crippled by my ‘flu’, there’ll be this niggling alternative medicine feeling in the back of my chest. Like any deluded mother-earth type, I prefer herbs to antibiotics. Ooh, way to alienate the baker’s dozen of prospective medical students on here!
Well, this has been a manifestly stodgy post. Sorry, but I think I’ve mislaid my usual gawky, acutely verbose ‘humour’. I’ve possibly coughed it up, along with half of my lungs. I wouldn’t go looking for it unless you’re comfortable with finding a lot of the latter in the process.