Exam Results: an adult writes

As trembling teenagers the length of this land rip open envelopes with expectant fingers, I think it’s time to play Bad Uncle and reveal a small truth that is often denied to young people. As I career towards forty, don’t have children of my own and are unlikely to ever acquire any, I am pleased to share information with any young person reading this (presumably by mistake).

Never seek out a ‘proper adult’ out for advice: they will only advise imaginary versions of themselves at your age. The wealthy but loveless adult will tell you there is more to life than money. The deliriously, blissfully married adults who live in a leaky caravan under a flyover will tell you to get on the property ladder quick smart.

Adults will seldom consider that a) the world has changed since they were your age and b) their metrics are all wrong.

Most of us adults feel we have ’got away with it’ in one, several, many, most or indeed all aspects of our lives. Whether it’s that chance encounter on a dance floor that led to love or the fortuitous death of a miserly but loaded grandparent which paid off a chunk of mortgage, we often look back and think that we had a narrow miss on whatever it is that makes us happy or comfortable today. Adults who have a soft spot for a young person are hard wired to make their lives easier in the one aspect of life they feel they themselves missed out on. Offering advice is reflexive and probably involuntary.

Advising the young is completely useless and should only be seen by young people as a sort of friendly gesture of affection, like a cat bringing a dead bird into the kitchen. You’re not going to eat it yourself, but it’s the only language the cat understands, so… shrug and take the compliment (and buy your cat a little bell).

Exams are an excellent case in point. If you have a clutch of A*s staring back at you from your results sheet, you’re fated to go to an expensive university, and have an early adulthood of debt to look forward to. If you’re not going to university by dint of choice, exam results or common sense, adults will look at you a bit bewildered as if there’s something wrong with taking home most of what you earn from a job, or starting your own business, or doing something you actually enjoy. Only an idiot (such as whoever made the graphic on this blog post) would consider the alternative to getting good grades equals a ‘fail’. That just isn’t how the world works: you don’t fail, you do something else instead.

Adults know nothing, and yet if you don’t do what they think you should do, will warn of catastrophe. But your world will not cease to exist if you ignore them; you’ll wake up with the rest of your life ahead of you, same as everyone else.

John Prescott regularly complained that he was at a disadvantage because of his education. If you didn’t know already, John (now Lord) Prescott was, for a time, the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Disadvantage, there. Adults know nothing. 

My exam results were very good, but before you get too excited about my intellect, you should see me trying to change a plug or parallel park. Nobody ever died from slightly misquoting bits of Othello, yet being able to do this was considered far more important at the age of eighteen than basic electrical safety or competent driving. My brilliant analysis of the Freud-Jung spat leaps off the page with vivacity and colour. Unfortunately the page I wrote it on was my tax return, and it was sent back with a Post-It of threats.

To this day, thousands of schools turn out millions of taxpayers who haven’t ever seen a tax return as part of their formal education. Yet religious education is compulsory by law. Adults know nothing. 

The truth is, everyone you know has got away with it, and you will too. The adults who like you would like to see your life easier than it’s going to be – but they should’ve thought of that when they were buggering up the housing market and turning the educational establishment into a sausage factory. Adults don’t really understand what opportunities exist for you as well as you do, so don’t set too much store by what they say you ‘should’ be doing.

Adults know nothing.

Bad news: you are an adult.

Good news: you’ll get away with it, same as the rest of us.


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