You Go To School

The ever reliable Timehop reminded me this morning of a piece I wrote seven years ago today, when I was two weeks away from retirement. It was a fairly short one, but it resonated with me when I read it again so I thought I’d share it for you – after all, how many of you were reading my blog seven years ago and will have seen this before?!

A few things struck me:

1. Those were the days when (a) WordPress offered us a Daily Prompt, and (b) they were helpful.

2. The link to WordPress’ Daily Prompt still works! You’ll have to scroll a long way down the 216 contributions to find mine though, back in the days when this still went by the original, albeit not very original, title of “Clive’s Blog.’

3. I used to listen to my music on an iPod back then – remember them? Just think how much streaming services have rendered them obsolete in seven years, saving us the task of copying our CDs and transferring them! I think mine is tucked away in a drawer somewhere, long since left silent.

4. This will be the second time this week that I’ve shared a Steve Earle song – because he’s worth it!

5. Sadly, I don’t see the point I made about the lack of availability of education for all becoming less valid any time soon.

This is what I said back then:


Daily Prompt: Can’t Drive 55

I haven’t posted for one of the daily prompts for a while – or anything else, come to that – but I was rather taken with the challenge in today’s, which reads:

Take the third line of the last song you heard, make it your post title, and write for a maximum of 15 minutes. GO!

As I’ve been fighting headaches and a migraine all week I haven’t listened to any music since last weekend, so I had to check on my iPod what that last song was. It turned out to be this:

As I’ve mentioned before I am a long time fan of Steve Earle, and this song comes from his first full-length studio album, Guitar Town, which was released in 1986. The third line of the song goes:

You go to school and you learn to read and write

A fairly basic statement, until you hear it in the context of the song, which is about the frustrations of a young man growing up in a small town wanting to get away to see ‘what’s over that rainbow.’ The next line is:

So you can walk into the County Bank and sign away your life

Get the picture? The song is really a mix of those frustrations with hope that the future will be better, all based on the belief of youth that the world is a much better place everywhere except in the small cocoon that encloses them. I know, I was young once, and my memory hasn’t completely gone. Yet. As I approach a major change in my life it does in some strange way feel like I’m a teenager again, with so much to look forward to. The big difference is that I’m not dreaming about what my life may hold and what I may make of it, but how I can spend my time enjoying myself, doing all the things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t yet done, and hopefully still making a useful contribution to society in my own small way. That’s a kind of dream, isn’t it? To my mind, there’s nothing wrong with having dreams at any time about what life may hold for you – being without some hope is like giving up on life, which is not something I’m planning on doing any time soon!

But let’s go back to the song line that started off my thoughts. At its most basic level it is a simple statement of fact: everyone goes to school, and reading and writing are the basis of all forms of learning. All of you reading this must have gone through some schooling to be able to be here now. But I know that people read this blog from a huge number of countries worldwide, not all of which have such a developed education system as the USA and the UK, where the bulk of readers come from. We take education as a right, as a given part of our lives. My education has taken me to university, to a Masters degree, and supported me through my working life. I have been able to read anything I wanted to along the way – even if I still have to look up the big words in a dictionary from time to time. I’ve always seen this as an entirely natural thing, and the opportunity to have a good education should be a given for everyone, regardless of where they are born. Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, that is still not the case everywhere. Maybe, when we sit and think about our frustrations with life, with our dreams of something better, we should also think how lucky we are to do that – not everyone even knows the rainbow exists and that there might be a better place beyond it.

A final thought: the song that started this off has been covered several times. I’ll leave you with my favourite of these, with the beautiful voices of Shawn Colvin and, providing harmonies, her great pal Mary Chapin Carpenter:

15 thoughts on “You Go To School

  1. ellenbest24 September 1, 2020 / 10:35 am

    Another nice visit a good read and I learned some lyrics. My daughter s director of primary five schools to oversee one huge Cambridge overspill one to drag out of special measures, our kids in England get inconsistencies across counties and rural areas, but we can hold our heads up when comparing our education to other countries. Though there must always be room to improve and people like my daughter with the heart to teach, to coach and improve what we have. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 1, 2020 / 11:38 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Ellen. I recognise those inconsistencies – some of which derive from education being an underfunded political football, like my former employer (the NHS). But even at its worst our system is far better than that of some countries – and it does rely heavily on the quality of the people who work for it, like your daughter.


  2. Stevie Turner August 30, 2020 / 9:14 am

    I missed this one the first time around, but sadly some kids come out of 11 years of schooling still unable to read and write. I haven’t got a degree to my name, as apparently ‘people like me’ didn’t go to university, but at least Mum taught me to read and write before I went to school. I did the same with my own two sons. If you can’t read, then you cannot function very well in this life.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Clive August 30, 2020 / 10:10 am

      I doubt we were following each other seven years ago, Stevie! I was taught to read and write before school too – it’s a big advantage for later life. We had a couple at primary school who struggled, but at least they had the opportunity, which is denied to many elsewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. petespringerauthor August 30, 2020 / 12:30 am

    I love your philosophy about retirement, Clive. It is very much connected to the way I think. Dreams and goals are a good thing. Some we will achieve and others we won’t reach, but the real privilege is the opportunity to pursue those things. Education is a fine example, but as you so eloquently point out, not everyone has equal access to something that should be as basic as food and clothing. I also agree with the notion of trying to make some kind of contribution to the world. I think if everyone looked at life in that manner instead of a “what’s in it for me” philosophy, the world would be a far happier place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive August 30, 2020 / 10:03 am

      Thanks, Pete. A lesson I’ve learned since retirement is not to plan too far ahead – my health hasn’t been great and I’ve had to adjust those hopes and dreams!

      As someone for whom the education process was automatically there, I find it hard to see how some countries don’t treat it as a priority. I guess funding and culture come into that.

      And you’re so right about what would make the world happier!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jim Borden August 29, 2020 / 9:11 pm

    great post, Clive. And it’s amazing that there is such a discrepancy in access to quality education within a country and around the globe. seems like it’s a basic human right.

    And I agree, we’ve got to have hopes and dreams, but those hopes and dreams change over time.

    Love the Steve Earle song; he reminds me a lot of John Prine, and this song reminds me a little of Thunder Road by Bruce…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive August 29, 2020 / 10:03 pm

      Thanks, Jim. It still seemed relevant and worth sharing again after so long. Sadly, nothing much seems to have changed with that imbalance.

      Dreams do change with time – mine are very different from 50 years ago.

      I’ll get you listening to Steve Earle yet! Comparisons can be unfair but I bracket him, Bruce and John Mellencamp together – songs about everyday life, with a strong social conscience.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. robertawrites235681907 August 29, 2020 / 6:36 pm

    An excellent post, Clive. A good education is definitely not available everywhere. The public school system is South Africa is dismal and its getting worse and worse as corruption eats away at the funding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive August 29, 2020 / 7:03 pm

      Thanks, Robbie. I’m sorry to hear that, and I doubt it’s unique to SA, sadly.


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