Bonner Day: School is life itself, not just preparation

Bonner Day

“Education makes a greater difference between man and man than nature has made between man and brute.”

— John Adams, Founding Father

In the cycle of life in the valley, school has begun once again. My trip to the golf course is interrupted frequently by school buses on their routes. And as I wait for the bus to resume its journey, I often recall my own school days.

Like so many pupils, I never really thought about the purpose of going to school. I was looking for it to be over. It never occurred to me that school was designed to prepare us for life. Instead of looking forward to leaving school, I should have realized that school was life itself as much as preparation. I should have savored the trip more, rather than focusing on the destination.

Like many, I thought school was where I belonged. If I had been raised on a farm, the role of work in life might have been clearer to me. But growing up in a mining town, I didn’t see any job I could handle. My role, it seemed, was to join my generation and go to school until I was old enough to earn my own room and board.

I can’t recall learning any specific lesson. But I recall many learning incidents that had nothing to do with the formal classes. I ran into many people, young and old, I wanted to emulate. I recognized character I wanted to copy.

A relative, speaking of a grandchild, once remarked, “That child doesn’t have any idea of why he is going to school.” I suspect that describes most children. They learn subconsciously about people, about conduct, about the world outside the home.

If school is life itself, it is also a part of growing up, of maturing. And hopefully, most will begin to appreciate learning is important at some point before they graduate.

Learning wasn’t the goal of the culprit who swiped some change from my first grade teacher’s desk. We were all told to put our heads on the desk and close our eyes so the money could be returned anonymously. No one strained their ears more than me to hear those anonymous footsteps. I learned the world was different from home.

Buddy S. was not thinking of learning that morning on the bus, when he brought a mouse and handed it to Patricia T. He and his gang were disappointed when she treated it like a pet, rather than screaming and running from her seat. I learned life, and women, are unpredictable.

I was not thinking about learning in the library when I pointed at a book to Joyce B. in the classics section. “Isn’t that the Shakespeare play we have in class?” I asked. And when she got on tip-toe to read the title, I kissed her cheek. The librarian, in her glassed-in office, was there in a flash. Without any semblance of a trial, Ms. W. banned me from the library until further notice. I learned the world (and Shakespeare) can get you into trouble.

I also learned that school is about as democratic as you can get. Some may dress a little better, have a bigger allowance, and even get to drive a car. But making the team, getting in the school play or getting good grades are all accomplished by merit. And punishments are fair. At least that was my experience. This education on the importance of merit and demerits prepared me for the world as much as any individual class.

Well, the bus has passed so I better get to the golf course.

Bonner Day has lived for 14 years in the valley with a temperamental cat and wife. Email:bonner5@shentel.net.