I went to prestigious private middle and high schools in the UK. I left at 18 with a fistful of A-Levels, but absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, and no sense of possessing any skills other than those needed to write essays. The only clear path open to me seemed to be university, then a graduate career – but I was not at all sure that this was what I wanted. To me as an 18-year-old at the time, the world wasn’t really interested in anything I could offer it.
Subsequently, 6 months on a building site saving to spend a year teaching English in the developing world started to give me some perspective on myself, while teaching myself to touch-type in a fortnight gave me more opportunity in the job market than any other skills I had learned to date.
Having since worked as a youth worker and secondary teacher, I have seen in teenagers I have worked with many different reactions to that confusion and frustration that I felt: not knowing who I was and what to do with myself; not being given opportunities to do something useful, challenging and absorbing that would boost my self-esteem. This is why the argument in “Overschooled but Undereducated” resonates with me profoundly.