Posted in Of Quotations

Of Things They Don’t Teach in School

Neil-Gaiman
I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.- Neil Gaiman

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Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

16 thoughts on “Of Things They Don’t Teach in School

  1. I completely agree. I spoke about this in a recent post, actually, because it’s my opinion that school’s generally teach you what you need to learn to pass an exam, and little more than that.

    1. Unlike most people, I actually had a good time in the one I went to for my middle and high school years. The reason I fell in love with it was, you were always given a chance to explain yourself no matter what you did. That hadn’t been the case before. This school was so fair that, if the teachers did something wrong, they would be “scolded” right in front of students. There was always scope for communication and reason, students hardly ever got punished. This fairness resulted in me subconsciously expecting an idealized notion of the world, a view that was crushed the moment I stepped out of this place. So, I will say I learnt the very best of life there, and little of the worst. And that, is also an incomplete education.

      1. I suppose all schools have their perks and downfalls. I’m actually a huge fan of my secondary school because I can definitely recognise that the teachers cared for us dearly and went out of their way to teach us things that strayed from the curriculum, and I’ll always be very grateful for that. I also understand, however, that they are confined by the strict curriculum which seems to ultimately exist for the purpose of creating uniformed young adults who know exactly how to pass an exam, but who know not much else.

      2. Exactly. In a way, it is yours to decide how you make use of the opportunities you get. I generally found it easy to ask for help or advice with certain things and certain people. Not so much for other things, and I’m sure there were many who didn’t have the courage at all. It is sad that people only learn to appreciate the problems of the system when they’re on the other side. However, that does not mean there isn’t something more to be desired, no matter how inadequate things are.

  2. I disagree. Good teachers make these socialization issues a part of the curriculum through leveryday interactions as well as with lessons in literature, social studies, science, math, and language. We do NOT just teach to pass an exam. Please don’t undermine the rigor of our daily interactions with children. If all we did was teach to the test, there would be pure mayhem and madness in our classrooms and hallways.

    1. I am sorry if you find Mr. Gaiman’s quote offensive ( it is from his Sandman comics and so, not a direct quote) and as I explained to a previous commenter, I learnt the very best of life in school, and it was largely out of textbooks. However, there are many with unsatisfactory, unpleasant or worse experiences in school. I am sure if there were not many, many brilliant teachers out there, schools would not have endured the way they do. But, ultimately, it comes down to a person’s individual experience, and like Mr. Gaiman does, they should be allowed to speak of it.

      1. Why would me disagreeing mean this person doesn’t have a right to speak what he wants? Please don’t misrepresent what I wrote.

      2. I am sorry if it seems like I misrepresented what you wrote. That certainly wasn’t my intention. I only pointed out that there are two sides to the situation.

  3. As soon as I saw this post (and the picture) I knew it was a Rose Walker quote. But I had to look it up in my copy of The Kindly Ones to remember exactly where it was. I thought it was later in the story, but I was confusing it with her “I hate love” speech.

    Having worked as a teacher before, I understand why some people get defensive reading sentiments like the ones expressed in this quote. (Though I myself think G.B. Shaw’s “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches” is a much harsher and more personal insult leveled against teachers.) Especially in the current ideological climate in the U.S. (where I live), teachers are an easy target for certain kinds of political attacks, so some people respond to that situation by putting their guard up. And I do agree with an opinion expressed in the comments above: good teachers do help to socialize their students, in the best case scenario. But teachers cannot do all of the work of socialization, nor should they be expected to. There will always be certain things that students can’t or won’t learn in school, which is what I think this quote is really about. If teachers share some responsibility for socializing students–which I think they do–then conversely, other people in society also share some responsibility for teaching important life lessons. Getting people to understand the big picture is a group effort.

    I got a great deal out of my experiences as a student, but it’s true that some of it is luck, and some of it is getting out of it what you put into it. It helps to understand that the character who is the source of this quotation is expressing frustration at her own situation in the story as much as she is making an observation about education. (I can tell I’m well-educated because I can write a sentence with so many words ending in “-ation.”)

    1. I personally thought it was funny. I certainly didn’t think it was an insult. I don’t have a copy of Sandman and I read it a long time ago, so I couldn’t remember what the context was. It appears to be a massive generalisation, but that will be the case only if it is taken as one. Anyone inside or outside the system should be able to understand that there have been all kinds of learning experiences in all kinds of schools. Whether these are the feelings of a character in a story or of the author himself provided in the guise of the character, it should not be a matter of agreement or disagreement, as these are simply somebody’s individual experience. Thank you Various Historian for putting forward a weighted perspective. I really appreciate it, as I seem to have not done a good job of it myself.

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