It's Not Fair
Hard lessons you will learn when you are out of school, from Ann Landers
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Geography
Revised: June 29, 2004

Ann Landers printed the following list for pre-teens in her column in the summer of 2000 (I lost track of the date). It had already circulated in various papers and church newsletters. Ann Landers is famous for printing material without finding its sources. In this case, the author is Charles J. Sykes, who wrote the book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can't Read, Write, or Add.

This is a bit harsh and the title refers to "kids," but I think the list still merits consideration by college-aged young adults, some of whom have not yet had a chance to learn all of these "rules." This is the Ann Landers version, with my comments in red. carries the original version , which has a few interesting additions.

Ten Rules Kids Won't Learn in School

  1. Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teenager uses the phrase "It's not fair" 86 times a day.
  2. The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as your school does. This may come as a shock.
  3. Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year as soon as you get out of high school. And you won't be a vice president and have a car phone, either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a designer label. [ That comment about the car phone indicates that this list originated a few years ago.
  4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.
  5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it "opportunity."
  6. It's not your parents' [ or your professors'] fault if you mess up. You're responsible. This is the mirror image of "It's my life" and "You're not my boss."
  7. Before you were born, your parents weren't boring. They got that way by paying bills and listening to you.
  8. Life is not divided into semesters. And you don't get summers off. Not even spring break. You are expected to show up every day for eight hours, and you don't get a new life every 10 weeks.
  9. Smoking does not make you look cool. Watch an 11-year-old with a but in his mouth. That is what you look like to anyone over 20.
  10. Your school may be "outcome-based," but life isn't. In some schools, you're given as many chances as you want to get the answer right. Standards are set low enough so nearly everyone can meet them. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life - as you will soon find out.
Good luck. You are going to need it. And the harder you work, the luckier you will get.

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James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Bridgewater State College