How not to teach kids about making life choices

I can still remember Mr Pearce shouting at me in front of our entire year group, in front of 120 students.  I was twelve years old.  And shy.  I hated attention and hated that moment.  My face was burning red with embarrassment as his lit up with fire.  I am shy in front of groups and here I was standing in front of the entire year group.  Despite that embarrassment, the over-riding emotion I remember was of total confusion.  I didn't understand why he was so angry.

"Are you taking the piss, boy???"  No, I was not taking the piss, but if I knew then what I know now then I certainly would have done.  It's a little bit ironic that his reading glasses, intended to help him see more clearly, coiuld not prevent his narrow-mindedness.  Poor teacher.  Well, he was actually Deputy Head Master (Vice Principal) of the school. He was not just an ordinary run-of-the-mill teacher, he was a proper scary one!

It was a PSE class (Personal and Social Education).  The class was all about managing a domestic monthly budget.  Our homework was to ask our parents what our monthly living costs were and to draw a pie graph of how we would "spend" a fictitious monthly budget when we 'grow up'.  And I did.  And he didn't like it.

"Didn't you do your homework???"  Poor Mr Pearce, such an angry man.  "Where's your mortage, boy?!"
"We don't have a mortgage, Sir.  Here, this pie slice is the rent Sir.  This is what we pay, I asked Mum."
"What?  Really?  Ok, well...  Alright, what about a car?"
"We don't have a car, Sir."
"Then how will you get to work, boy?"
"I plan to live near my work, Sir, but actually, I have added bus fare, that's here," and I had.  I calculated exactly how much bus fare I would need to spend to travel to work, based on my journey to school, which was twelve miles.  I am now 38 and in twenty years of working full-time I have lived within walking distance of my workplace for at least six years and worked from home for another twelve, so that's 90% of my working life. For the other two years I caught a train, so I have literally never spent money on car or bus transport in order to get to work.  Admittedly, I have worn out a lot of pairs of shoes and I had not thought of that.
"And health insurance?  Where's your health insurance?"  I explained the benefits of the NHS.  In the UK it is compulsory for citizens to pay a tax called N.I. Contributions in exchange for free access to medical treatment.  In practise it isn't always as helpful as you might hope, but that's the theory.

The questioning continued.  I had provisions for everything he asked and ended-up spending only half of the budget, but we were instructed to spend it all.  So I did.  I was twelve years old!  I had so much money left over, I couldn't believe it!  I had a lot of fun spending the rest on sweets, board games, paints and modeling, computer games, holidays and I even saved some too!  It turns out that everybody else spent theirs on boring things like mortgages, health insurance, expensive cars and car insurance and if they had correctly imagined the future they also would have spent it on expensive flat-screen TVs or mobile phones that cost more than their TVs and in some cases probably more than their cars.  Anyway, there were no such things as mobile phones in those days so that didn't apply, but they didn't have any money left for actually enjoying themselves.

And Mr Pearce wasn't enjoying himself either.  He was furious.

But was Mr Pearce right to be so angry with me?


By comparison, here I am twenty-six years later and I have never really had the kind of budget that Mr Pearce allocated to us.  Yet, although there are some things lacking in my life, one or two things that I really hoped to achieve by now but haven't, I am really happy with the life I have led so far and the experiences I have had and the people I have met.  I have lived in some amazing places, traveled to stunning parts of the world, I am not in debt and I am not constantly chasing the next promotion for an extra one pound or one piso or one dollar and making myself more miserable doing so.  I still have a lot of ambitions left to achieve, such as going into space, but most importantly, I do not have to try every day to convince 120 little monsters that my view of life is the only valid option and I am not being wound up by a cretinous little twelve year old punkster who thinks he knows more about life than I do!

So maybe Mr Pearce was angry because he was trying to propagate his difficult life, and thereofre his choices, onto me, in order to validate his ownlife to himself.  Or maybe he was just in a bad mood, hahaha!

Oh, poor Mr Pearce (with the funny accent).  To his credit, once upon a time a dinner lady asked me what my name was, because I was being naughty, and I said Jimmy White.  Jimmy White was the most famous snooker player at the time, everybody knew who he was, except the dinner lady.  Anyway, she took me to see Mr Pearce and introduced me as Jimmy White.  He told me off for lying to her, but said it was a good joke and he advised me next time to make the joke but to later explain and give my real name too.  He wasn't so bad.

By the way, that was the year I started my first business.  It wasn't really a business, it was more of a game that had paid subscriptions and it wasn't really profitable, but it was at least a start.

It's good to make choices about life and how we want to spend our time in this life.

I hope you have a fun day!

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