Fuck you school

15 May, 2010

I was home-schooled for six years. It was a curious practice, even for my cult. My mother stayed at home as women were instructed to by the cult leaders but decided she could do a better job of teaching her kids than the public education system. That’s probably true – but all I remember from my primary school years is teaching myself.

Amongst my most treasured possessions were my father’s university textbooks on forestry, metallurgy and biology and a stack of around fifty Scientific American magazines that I had read cover to cover several times. I remember when I was around 11 years old being very excited to receive a new college-level physics book that I adored.

I remember fondly filling out pages and pages of my notepad with inventions for machines, fusion reactors, urban planning, space ships and more. Of course being only young most of my inventions were – whilst highly detailed – also highly impractical.

Then my parents decided I would attend public school for my high school and college years. I skipped Year 7 and finished Year 12 a month into 2000 so was really only at school for four years, but school broke me.

Sure, I learned a lot at school … jumping straight to protein/DNA structures and going mad over metallurgical phase diagrams I was bound to have missed some of the important though less interesting detail and so I have school to thank for that.

Of course having grown up in a cult and being home-schooled the most significant part of going to school was the other students. Year 8 was utter shit for me as I was thrown in the deep end with absolutely no idea how to behave. I was bullied something harse and I left that school at the end of the year. Years 9 and 10 were ok … I fluctuated between putting the effort and scoring straight A’s and then realising no one likes a tall poppy or smart arse (although I did seem to impress some people that I could recite the entire periodic table) and flunking the next semester with C’s and D’s.

School dragged me down, pulled me back and reigned me in. I was crushed, compacted and made to fit the tiny box that the education system and the culture of public schooling required. I left college in 2000 feeling dumber than I had entered the public education system in 1996, and certainly with far less spontaneity and creativity than before.

Going out into the workforce wasn’t that much better. I now have earned the respect that my expertise and experience deserves and am thus afforded certain freedoms, but at the start of my career I was micromanaged, shot down, made to conform … just like school.

It’s taken me years to bring back the imagination but it still frustrates and angers me that here I am at 26 years old and am only just now starting to realise my potential and rediscover that creativity and powerhouse of a mind that I was lucky enough to be born with. I’m not bragging – I’m just calling it what it is, and I feel it is my duty while I’m alive to make the most of what I have to benefit society and this world. It’s not about me, it’s about what I can and should be doing for the remaining 50 years of my life.

Of course I’m not blaming just public education. I’m blaming my parents, I’m blaming home-schooling, I’m blaming the fundamentalist Christian revival cult I was brought up in … but school sucked.


  1. Hi Nathanael, I admire your honesty and sympathize with your struggle, your story some way mirrors mine own except I would say I think you are way more intelligent than I, but that being so smart as to manage your own grades rings so true.

    All I can say I am 44 and I know you can win, but not allays in the ways you think you win. I follow you on Twitter and enjoy your bent on life and the interactions that you have with others.

    On moving to Sydney the question really should be what am I leaving behind to follow my dream and is it a cost I am willing to bear.


  2. Congratulations on rediscovering your spark! Some never do.

    A word of warning. Don’t blame. Nothing good grows from that seed. Besides, your parents were doing the best they knew. I speak as a child of parents and a parent of children now grown.

    And would you really rather have spent your entire childhood in school?

    What was this cult you were raised in? Was it a real cult, like Jim Jones? Or just a local church with a charismatic pastor?

    Good luck using your brain. And your heart. ~TK~

  3. Nat, while I don’t think your bad experience of school is unique, you have some very special circumstances that make it particularly different.

    Don’t blame school, blame those circumstances.

    Most kids generally have a decent experience at school, even if there are days that suck.

  4. You’re right Tom, shouldn’t blame. Just giving credit where it’s true. At least I’m accepting responsibility for making things right now.

    • THAT is the best thing you can do. The past only has as much of a hold on you as you give it.

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