Real Life

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.

2 thoughts on “Real Life”

  1. I don’t think that the idea behind labeling adult life as the “real world” isn’t to say when a person will have meaningful life experiences. We all know that childhood and adolescences are full of them. But rather the point of using the phrase “the real world” is to differentiate the typical, relatively carefree life of a child vs. an adult trying to manage their job and family life in order to feed, clothe, and house them while paying taxes, taking care of bills, and working as much as they can. Of course, every metaphor has its limitations and a lot of kids have to grow up pretty fast, such as the kids in your classroom. But I would guess that the majority of kids don’t have to go through things as traumatic as that, and so I would say that the “real world” moniker is correct.

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