A friend recently linked to this article, titled 'Why Self-Discipline is Overrated'. Which ... I recognise me in it, despite the fact that I have kind of terrible self-discipline.
Though I certainly internalised the notion that moral rectitude is in part measured by how good one is at knuckling down and doing What Must Be Done.
But one of the things that it reminds me of is the style of "schooling" intended to shape children into good, obedient workers, rather than critical thinkers, innovators, or even well-informed and knowledgeable citizens. Under some bits of the history of school development, none of those things are actual desired goals - which explains why the system stinks at producing them. No, the system is supposed to produce "self-discipline", pretty much.
But the stuff about going to college? Portrait of the blogger as a teenager. And a few other people I know, besides:
Dutiful students may be suffering from what the psychoanalyst Karen Horney famously called the “tyranny of the should” -- to the point that they no longer know what they really want, or who they really are. So it is for teenagers who have mortgaged their present lives to the future: noses to the grindstone, perseverant to a fault, stressed to the max. High school is just preparation for college, and college consists of collecting credentials for whatever comes next. Nothing has any value, or provides any gratification, in itself. These students may be skilled test-takers and grade grubbers and gratification delayers, but they remind us just how mixed the blessing of self-discipline can be.
I was a nerdy kid. I'm still an autodidact, pursuing levels of in-depth knowledge on subjects of interest to me - but of course those subjects fit remarkably poorly into any instructional pattern. I was bad at most of my homework, because - as the article notes - so much of it is utterly pointless, and that much was evident to me from the age of, y'know, seven or so.
But in college? I had no idea what I was doing. I had nebulous goals for the future, none of which were dependent on a degree, but getting a degree was What One Did and An Important Experience, so I tried it. (It didn't work out, but that's neither here nor there; I both know people who, like me, went from "stressed to the max" to "broken" and people who scraped through with a degree they found meaningless aiming them at a life that didn't feel like it went anywhere.) The whole value in college was the "discipline" of it, and the "won't it feel so good when you've accomplished". I had no space for finding the place to learn - and do - what I loved.
I didn't even figure out what I wanted to be doing for something like ten years after I dropped out. Because I didn't have the tools; I just had the discipline thing (and the knowledge that I kind of fail at it).
I think of this now, for two reasons - one, that I'm having a major shitfit about the conservative/discipline approach to living and the way it devalues more spontaneous and intuitive attitudes right now, entirely unrelatedly, and two, because I'm seriously considering how I might want to actually go back to school. And ... what I want is a particular Master's degree. And to get that, I ... need a BA. So I've been trying to find something that I can do, that fits in with my life, that is also work that I love, because if I have to hit this particular hoop, I want to do it for more than the discipline.
(In a fit of irony I'm trying to make sure I get at least a post a month up here despite being profoundly occupied with Little Foot. Discipline! Perseverance!)