All my life, I’ve been hearing about “The Real World”, that ominous, ambiguous, paramount future, whose preparation was the goal of all my public education.
I’ve shifted from hanging out with 20-somethings who are definitely still not in The Real World, to 8 year-olds who are being prepared for 4th grade, where they will be prepared for 5th grade, where they will be prepared for 6th grade, where they will be prepared for Middle School, where they will be prepared for High School, where they will be prepared for College, where they will be prepared for… The Real World?
Wait, what? I’ve realized that in taking steps to prepare for The Real World, we spend at least a quarter of a century in Preparation Mode; that is, outside The Real World. So where are we, anyway?
I submit that The Real World begins at birth. We’re on this earth to have valuable life experiences, and to say that what takes place before getting your Doctorate isn’t real is to undermine God’s plan. Maybe I’m not working 40 hours a week. Maybe my students don’t have as many responsibilities now as they will someday. Maybe the High School senior still lives at home. (Heaven forbid!) But I don’t think any of those qualities remove reality from the world.
A voluntary raise of hands from my third graders told me that roughly 70% of my class has had or currently has a parent or parents in prison. To my knowledge, at least 25% of my students don’t live with both parents. If that’s not real life, I don’t know what is.
The world kids live in is cold and hard and REAL, and I think we’re doing them a disservice by always harping on about The Real World and how different and great and scary and the same and new and messed up it is. They don’t need to hear that. They’re living in it.
LIFE is The Real World. Every experience we have is significant, no matter how old we are, or what state of life we find ourselves.