Another Unoffical Lesson Taught in School

The lessons kids learn in school that aren’t part of the official curriculum are the most powerful lessons taught in these institutions. John Taylor Gatto wrote about the unofficial lessons he taught in school.

Today I have one to add to his list.

Respect can be achieved through the purchase and acquisition of status symbols.

Let me explain.

I work with a guy who has two teenage boys in a large suburban public high school. Parking in the school lot is by permit only and costs $180.00 per year.

However, students can park in the lot across street for free but few do.


Student culture has labeled the free lot the “loser” lot.

I would think that the intelligent kids, the entrepreneurial kids, and the healthy kids, would park in the free lot. It’s good exercise to walk a hundred yards more to school and you’ll save almost $200 a year. Why would you throw your money away?

Simple, kids believe having a parking permit makes them a ‘winner.’ Why? They, or more importantly, their parents, can afford to throw money away on a piece of paper. Only ‘losers’ can’t or won’t spend money on a piece of paper that gives them membership in a herd. The parking permit isn’t a parking permit at all, it is a social status symbol and a subtle symbol of conformity.

6 thoughts on “Another Unoffical Lesson Taught in School”

  1. One of the big factor in success though is having the ability to go against the norm, I’m sure it is tough for a teenager to do that but I bet the ones who are really going to succeed in a big way have no problem using the free parking lot. Only a very few will be shepherds, most will be sheep!

  2. I agree with Cody. We, the parents, teach our kids wrong things. But it is not only us: it is our system, schools, and I need to say commercials. Commercials and TV make such an influence on us and our children that we base our values on things they want us to base. They tell us: “Yes, if you have money, and if you can spend money on stupid things we promote, than you are cool, you are the man, dude!” This makes us buy things we don’t need, like buying that piece of paper which allows us to park 100 meters closer to school. But does it really make a difference?

  3. We the parents do have the ability to teach our kids the right stuff. It’s much harder when kids are schooled as they are bombarded with influences, and I think conformity is practically a survival instinct. I remember being a school student and while I fancied myself a non-conformist, there was still a struggle with issues like if I looked or dressed right.

    Letting them grow outside the lemming-like environment and having the chance to grow into themselves is the way to go. The two big lessons that are reinforced in schools over and over are 1) be quiet and 2) do what you’re told. There’s a big difference being told what is right and wrong and being taught the tools to make that differentiation yourself.

  4. This is Excellent. I loved this piece. I can remember being in high school with kids like this. It really is like life though. We do the things others are doing to fit in. It is like whether we like green or yellow based upon what everyone else says. There is a website that I heard of that deals with this whole fit in with the crowd issue. Check it out.

  5. Hi Steve,

    Your blog has really inspired and motivated me to think higher, plan bigger and move faster. I’ve never found a blog so practical and really helpful. I pray that you continually bless the lives of your readers through your profound tips and ideas.


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