What high school didn’t teach me.

I got a forward a few weeks ago from an old friend. It was a request from an alumni association at the high school I graduated from. They are looking for brilliant stories from former graduates to inspire future graduates to join their program. Since I was in a fancy pants honor program called International Baccalaureate, they are expecting very brilliant stories. [As an aside, in case you didn’t know before I have just revealed that I was a total nerd in high school.] For example, one of my fellow classmates, is now doing something really brainy in the field of astrophysics somewhere in England last I heard.

Here is their letter.

Former IBer’s

We are currently putting together a few short biographies of past IB Students
here at Thurber to use in recruiting presentations (a sort of ‘Brag Book” if
you like. I was wondering if you would be willing to email me a few short
lines according to the following headings:

Where did you go to university/college?

What degrees/certifications did you receive/are working on?

What are you doing professionally?

What achievements/successes are interested in sharing personally and

How did IB help prepare you for your post secondary career and/or your
professional life?

Also if you could attach a current photo to the email it would be great.

Contact Information that we can use to track you down again or to pass on to
former classmates if they ask.

This information would only be used in school presentations and newsletters and
no print ads etc.

I understand how busy you must be, but if you could take a few moments to reply
to this email we in the IB Program here at Thurber would really appreciate it.

Take care.

Here is my initial response.

Dear IB People,

Professionally I currently wipe the poopie butts and clean up the other crap of my three offspring, whom I consider my most important life’s work to date. I am also a wife. My IB education was not very useful in either the conception of nor the subsequent birthing of said children. Unless you count the fact that I was able to use big words and intimidate the medical staff at the hospital to get what I wanted while in labor. Interestingly enough though, when I finally learned to think less about the conception and birth process and rather just experience it, I became a whole lot better at it.

I’m not sure it has been of much value in the raising of these children either. Though I do teach them myself at home, and they do read pretty well, and add and stuff, so perhaps it is coming in handy in that respect.

I found the study of European history only indirectly helpful in maintaining the relationships that are integrally important to how I rate my success in life, and much of my well being. [Though there is something to be said for the value of world literature in this area.] I did leave IB with a sense of entitlement and a vague sense of being better than other people since I was so far removed from those “other people” during my three years of high school. I learned that attitude from my many peers in IB, though I’m sure I was naturally inclined toward it already. It has not served me well. In fact, only when I was able to stop thinking of myself as anyone special, and instead appreciate the life that I do have as the miraculous gift that it is was I able to find any peace or contentment. And those are things worth having, far better than money or success.

Theory of knowledge was helpful, in that it introduced me to logic and reason and helped me to consider and act rather than react. Of course, I did not absorb enough of it’s benefit in time to prevent me from throwing my education ideas to the wind upon the suggestion of a guidance counselor, who only knew me from my academic record, that I major in music as I seemed to have an aptitude. That is how I learned to never let anyone tell me I should choose to do something just because I am good at it. If I don’t love it, or have a reason for doing it that I love even more, motivation is hard to come by. It doesn’t matter how many scholarships I win or how much praise I receive.

I spent 2 years working on a bachelor of music, spending hours in a practice room improving my ability to perform beautiful music for people who could afford to pay for the price of admission. After one too many after parties with respected professionals drinking too much wine and starting to leer at me, and one too many profs asking “Why are you here?” I abandoned my fruitless quest to convince myself that a professional music career mattered enough to devote my life to.

I spent a few years wandering around, learning, taking care of people, living closely with others in love and compassion and I realized that life is more than pieces of paper, professional success, or material gain, though those things have a very practical value. What really matters is the people we pass, the lives we touch, the relationships we build. These are the only things that matter in the end.

These lessons were not things that I could learn in IB. I am by no means belittling the value of an excellent education. It makes things easier for a person in whatever course they choose. But I no longer mistake a good education for wisdom, and I would rather possess the latter. That can only be come by the hard way, by living with your choices.

If you want something to brag about, I feel like the work I do as co-founder and administrator of a non-profit organization called The Charis Project that is focused on bringing help and aid to communities of Burmese refugees, caring for orphaned, abandoned and forgotten children, and maybe in the long run, through the care of these, changing the history of Burma itself is a pretty significant endeavor, one I am proud to be part of.

I write a lot too. Some of what I write is even read by other people. That’s kind of neat. Thanks IB English for building a skill that I use every single day.


So, what do you think? Do I send it?

all content © Carrien Blue

14 thoughts on “What high school didn’t teach me.

  1. Although I agree with you, there is a small chance that your response would be taken as mean and arrogant 😉

    Here’s what I was thinking about before I even read your response:

    To IB, NHS, and every other highschool program that tried to make me a more intelligent, successful person: I regret to inform you that I learned nothing of value through your otherwise excellent program, which is to say that I learned what you wanted me to learn only to discover it was less helpful in life than I would have liked.

  2. ROFL…old friend, is it?
    Anyway, I must agree that this is likely not quite what they are looking for, although I do think SOME of what you wrote is very good for the purpose.
    In my response, I was very honest, humbly so, but not in a way that tore down their intentions.
    In my case, IB saved me from dropping out of school from sheer boredom, and did allow me to learn methods of solving problems/finding answers that I didn’t know before…but that no, it really hadn’t furthered my life any beyond that. I’ll send you my answers later, which, I know, you will find to be somewhat of a suck-up to them in some ways, but for me, I think IB is good for some…note SOME students. For me, it was good in the sense that I finally fit somewhere, to a certain extent.
    Anyway….I am beginning to ramble and if I haven’t already, am likely to say something stupid. 🙂

  3. scuzzlewump-I have known you almost 20 years now, so old friends seemed accurate. Wrap your brain around that little nugget. It’s been a long time.

  4. I love it although I agree, it does sound a bit sarcastic. Perhaps you could just change it here and there so that it reads something to the effect of “although your intentions were good, this is what real life has taught me”. Then I think it would be acceptable to them. Frankly, I have to agree, I went through the national honor society, got my Bachelor’s at a very good college, went on to earn an MBA and have found it all pretty useless in my life. I love what you wrote, it is the truth.

  5. Hahaha – although they won’t publish it, I’m sure the readers would enjoy reading it. haha! I think that you could do a little editing and send it in so that it is published. To do that you would want to have a separate purpose in mind other than your initial “purpose” in making fun of things. Like, you could use the purpose of telling the current high school students that knowledge isn’t wisdom, keep in the bit about not doing something you don’t love and then use your own life example as a successful ending yadda yadda. Thanks for the laugh whatever you do!

  6. Well said! Never you mind the naysayers. It’s not too sarcastic… it’s humorously refreshing. 🙂

    Definitely send it.

  7. I love it although I agree, it does sound a bit sarcastic. Perhaps you could just change it here and there so that it reads something to the effect of "although your intentions were good, this is what real life has taught me". Then I think it would be acceptable to them. Frankly, I have to agree, I went through the national honor society, got my Bachelor's at a very good college, went on to earn an MBA and have found it all pretty useless in my life. I love what you wrote, it is the truth.

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