Ignorance Is Bliss: Brains Don't Make You Happy

Years of education has lead us to believe that you can't be happy without a degree and a 9-5 job. But are high achievers fulfilled?
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Years of education has lead us to believe that you can't be happy without a degree and a 9-5 job. But are high achievers fulfilled?

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As a kid it was continually drummed into me the importance of getting a good education. ‘You must attend school every day, make sure your homework’s completed on time, revise thoroughly for your exams, concentrate in lessons, no day dreaming, stop bunking off, no masturbating in class blah blah blah.’ Ridiculous.

Whilst I quite agree that a basic education is vital in arming yourself with the necessary tools to help you make your way through life as a functioning hard working, tax paying adult I don’t agree that higher education or even traditional secondary education is right for everyone or the path to happiness.

I was probably considered a failure of the education system. I came from a decent hard working family who instilled all the right values in me but my reports were consistent in that every one throughout my school life said I was intelligent and capable but lacked the drive to maximise my potential. I was disinterested in lessons and wasted my time having a laugh with my mates or gazing out the window longing for our lunchtime kickabout. In truth I was bored shitless by the majority of the teachers and the catch all syllabus. I found the work too easy so didn’t bother trying. I used to think what’s the point in proving to them I can do it when I know I can and when will 99.9% of people on this earth ever be required to solve a quadratic equation? Even though I think my principles were sound I will concede my attitude was somewhat arrogant in retrospect and a tad short sighted but this is the reason why I left school with 1 GCSE to my name.

The biggest failure though was the system itself, even though my reports were the same every year nobody thought to address the problem or even ask why I wasn’t engaged. Less able kids would attract far more help and support than those of us who were bright but weren’t inspired / couldn’t be arsed. They’d be shipped off to a special school where they’d be taught intensively in classes a third the size of ours and every drop of their potential would be squeezed out. I used to envy those kids, getting a lift to school in their special bus waving at us from the windows (this was around the time of Joey Deacon so you can imagine our non PC response to seeing the bus), they were happy at the thought of doing motor vehicle studies whilst we trudged to school in the cold longing for the school boiler to explode so we could avoid double maths with Mr Mawson and his halitosis.

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In some ways being bright is a disadvantage, it makes you ambitious, there are expectations and pressure, you are aware of the world and what it’s possible to achieve given the effort. You think about life and know if you step outside the lines and break the law they’ll be repercussions. You’re always thinking ahead and planning and tend to live less for the here and now and enjoying the moment.

A couple of years back I bumped into Wendy, the wife Steve who was one of the thick kids on the bus, a lovely girl but also a few sandwiches short of a picnic herself. Any way I asked after Steve and she said yeah he’s really happy. They’d just moved into a new council house and he’d been working as a dustman since leaving school. Oh that’s great I said thinking fair play at least he’s grafting, contributing to society and doing a job that most people would turn up their nose at instead of sponging off the social and spending all their benefits on tracksuit bottoms down Sports Direct. ‘Yeah’, she said ‘he loves it, gets up early and he’s home by lunch time so gets to collect the kids from school. The only downside is maggots out of his bum.’ ‘Sorry’, I said, ‘did you just say maggots out of his bum?’ She burst into fits of laughter. Apparently he doesn’t like wearing gloves so what happens is he handles all this rotten old rubbish that flies lay their eggs in then when he eats his sandwiches said eggs are transferred to his mouth, he swallows them, the eggs hatch in his stomach and the emerging maggots make their way out of the nearest exit, ie his rectum.

Now this stunned me. Not so much the thought of having maggots crawling out of your back passage, this isn’t something I look for in a job description, but more that this couple laugh it off as part of the job. They don’t worry about the health issues or feel repulsed because they don’t have the intellect to think it through; they just accept it and carry on. They have kids to look after and are decent proud people. I love that simplicity and feel a little envious.

We could all learn a thing or two from Wendy and Steve, they love each other, have a roof over their heads with a 50” tv on the wall, can afford to eat out once a week and get 2 weeks holiday in an Aunt’s caravan in Norfolk every year. What more do any of us really need than that?