“Name one thing you wish you could go back and change about your education.”
Considering how my life has unfolded, the biggest change I’d make is that I’d have gone to college right out of high school. Back then — and I didn’t know this at the time — it didn’t matter what your degree was in, the main thing was that you had a college degree. You could go anywhere with that magic piece of paper that had Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Sciences on it. Knowing that, I’d have chosen to go for Music; but back then, I thought you had to know what you wanted to do in life, and that college was supposed to be tied to what you did for the rest of your life. And a career in music was the equivalent of a Bachelor’s in English nowadays: I would have expected to spend my life singing, “You want fries with that?”
And yet, music is what I have spent my life doing, whether playing piano (badly — not enough lessons) or singing, or, for two exasperating and wonderful years, directing a choir. If I had realized any of that, I would have let nothing stop me. Particularly exasperating is that, having been brainwashed by the Cost of a College Education (even 50 years ago, it wasn’t cheap), I thought, what was the point in trying? My family could never afford it. It wasn’t until long after I was married that someone told me that the City University System of New York was absolutely free, if you went to the college of your own borough. In my case, that would have been Queens College.
And, in light of that piece of information, I can’t help wishing that I had gone to a public, rather than a parochial, school. We got a fantastic grounding in the English language — its mechanics, as well as putting together a coherent composition (not that you could judge by this post!) — but not in much else. Again, I was an adult before I realized the importance of the Iroquois Nation in New York State history; what we learned, this being Catholic school, was, “The Iroquois were the bad guys because they sided with the English, who were Protestant, and the Hurons were the good guys because they sided with the French, who were Catholic.” I hasten to add that the Hurons were up in Canada… And this had what to do with New York State history???! Our math and science education was also minimal, and the Arts were non-existent.
So yes, there is a very great deal I wish I could have changed about my education. That said — it was still a better education than what my kids got, described by my daughter as “eleven years of brainwashing, followed by one year of real education.” Both my kids took three years of Latin (and no foreign languages), and learned in three years what I learned in one. (And I took three years of French, besides.) Neither learned very much at all about European history. In fact, I used to love it when my son would get suspended from school for fighting; we’d watch public television together and talk about what we’d seen. One program focused on an island in the Netherlands where cars are banned altogether!
Foreign cultures, foreign ways: Now that’s a real education (from the Latin “e”, “out of,” and “duc”, the root of the verb “to lead” — as in, “leading one out of one’s own experiences, and into a wider world).