One of the big occasions in the exam calendar is drawing near – the day when teenagers gather with their friends to leap ecstatically for photographers.
This shorthand image for exam success has never been known to play itself out when the ladies and gentlemen of the press are not there to record it, but hey ho. Tradition must be observed.
(Here is the first jubilant sighting of the year, from Scotland.)
As the newly qualified youth embark on their journey of discovering they’ve filled their memory banks with information unsuited to the challenges of adult life, Saint Peacock is going to save a lot of people a lot of bother by suggesting an alternative and much more “applied” curriculum of 20 topics that schools should be teaching…
The talent that trumps all others, yet so many school leavers – and adults – opt instead for sullen, gaze-avoiding, anti-communication from behind a curtain of hair. Charm, described superbly by Google as “the power or quality of delighting, attracting or fascinating others,” is as close to magic as can be achieved without cabinets and playing cards. Best learnt by identifying its practitioners and imitating their best moves.
Should be taught: Incessantly
The skill that means one never has to say “That’s not fair” ever again.
Should be taught: At least two periods a week
The antidote to boredom. Everybody and everything has at least one interesting aspect – nothing and no one is the perfect bore.
Should be taught: Whenever a pupil performs the “Must we?” sigh.
Required in order to genuinely progress to adulthood, a condition that most people currently don’t fully achieve until around the age of 40.
Should be taught: First period on Mondays
May seem like an antiquated, hypocritical ritual to the eyeball-rolling teen, but manners are the only tool for coexisting effectively with some very difficult and hard-to-like people.
Should be taught: Instead of RE
This comment by Eleanor Roosevelt
For all sufferers of crippling self-awareness, this is the antidote: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realised how seldom they do.”
Should be taught: As a daily chant during assembly.
The difference between popularity and likeability.
You want to be on the likeability side of this vital distinction, as detailed here
Should be taught: As a science
To be practised rather than learnt.
Should be taught: As a module of PE
Of all the bad qualities one has to struggle to get rid of, tight-fistedness is one whose stain is most persistent.
Should be taught: On training visits to the pub
Do not grow into one of these people whose workmates gather to grimace and urgently whisper to each other “How do we tell him he smells?” And learn how to operate a nail brush – the day will eventually come when it makes a fork-in-the-road difference.
Should be taught: By example
Boys only – when wearing flip flops and sandals, some/all people will likely find your feet truly repulsive to look at. Those people may be individuals you are attempting to impress. And even when shoe-on, don’t put your feet on the table. No one has ever thought better of a person having been exposed to the soles of their shoes.
Should be taught: Instead of rugby
These are possibly the most important words you will ever learn, and may save years you would otherwise waste in a state of agonised uncertainty.
Should be taught: In the first period on the first day at school
Making people think you’re a bit unstable
Only to be employed when someone is metaphorically pushing you around or taking advantage – the effect of shouting at someone can usually sow sufficient doubt in the mind of your tormentor for them to back off in confusion.
Should be taught: In drama
Everyone has to grope their way through some often shocking clothing choices in search of “the look”, and this is unavoidable. But everyone should have a sense of where – and where not – to head for.
Should be taught: By girls
Problems – who feels them more acutely than kids? But they won’t go away if you don’t do anything about them, and that begins with hearing yourself say your problem out loud with your own mouth to another person.
Should be taught: By a flashing neon sign in the corridor
The potential future value of all acquaintances
Of double value – who knows what possible doors people you know may be able to open for you down the road? Also, an ability to get on with virtually everyone who crosses your path is an invaluable skill.
Should be taught: At break time
“You figure it out”
High quality advice from Jerry Seinfeld – this is the parental message he passes on to his own kids, as revealed in this interview with Mr Porter
Should be taught: On little cards, handed out at the school gates
Everything is relative
Schoolkids still have the lack of perspective on life that makes their extreme self-centredness forgiveable. To an extent. But the sooner some perspective is acquired the better, in order to better approach every situation. For example, a friend who had to go and do his year’s military service in Spain went with the enthusiasm of a condemned man. Once there, he discovered that for a lot of people, the monotony of military life and its three unremarkable meals a day was a significant upgrade on what they normally had to put up with at home on the farm, and so they greeted the experience with gratitude and delight. Another example: the son of the Russian poet Ana Akhmatova spent several years in the gulag before the Second World War. Released to serve on the eastern front when war came, he described the experience, compared to the Soviet prison system, as like a holiday camp.
Should be taught: On a series of day trips to unusual places
There are some things you’re just not going to be good at
More a question of self-acceptance than giving up on certain subjects as early as possible. Of essential value as an adult in order to make sure, when your job involves aspects in which you are weak, that you have deputies and staff who are able in these areas. This is a sign of strength, not inadequacy.
Should be taught: On the last day of school
“The bigger the front, the bigger the back”
A phrase used by psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz in his excellent book “The Examined Life” meaning the bigger the assholery – eg homophobia, pompous moralising, bullying behaviour, talking in superlatives – the more likely there is some variety of unaddressed insecurity or double standard in the shadows.
Should be taught: By whispering it into the ear of every student as they file out of the final assembly.