Classes in Life (by Billy Coffey)

Classes have begun in earnest at the college where I work. The serenity that was summer is now long forgotten, replaced by the franticness of fall. Hundreds of fresh and not-so-fresh faces are about, crowding classrooms and sidewalks in a symphony of chaos. Some of these faces are cool and collected, veterans of higher education. Others have the look of a lost child in a busy shopping mall—freshmen.

College is getting to be a more and more important part of life. Whereas folks my age could make a decent living with nothing more than a high school diploma, that’s not the case now. The world is changing. It’s bigger and more complex then when I was a teenager, and it’s easy to get turned around and never find your way.

Which is why all of these students are here—to find their way.

And I can think of fewer places better suited for such an endeavor. The college here offers dozens of majors and minors and three graduate programs. The professors are brilliant and products of some of the finest universities in the world. The administration is dedicated and professional. Both work together to ensure that each student receives the necessary knowledge in his or her declared discipline to find success in the world.

Last week I spoke with Emily, a young lady who had done just that—found success. It wasn’t long ago when she walked across the lawn just down from where I’m sitting now, fetched her diploma from the President of the college, and said hello to the real world. It was an easy introduction. She’d already fielded several job offers and one marriage proposal.

Life was good. No, better than good. Easy.

Now, two years later, Emily knows better. Her job is steady, but also stressful and demanding. And the marriage proposal she accepted was rescinded one year and one child later, leaving her a single mom.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “Life is still good. It’s just not that easy.”

I understood. College can’t get you ready for everything.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it could, though? If college could not only give you theories and laws, but training for life’s hiccups as well? Yes. Now then we’d have something.

I’m not privy to decisions concerning curriculum and how much of what must be taught. I’m simply an underling, paid not to form policy but to make sure the day-to-day runs smoothly. I have no fancy initials under my name, no suit and tie, and the only piece of paper framed on my wall is a movie poster from Tombstone.

But what I lack in formal education I more than make up for in experience, which just so happens to be a fine instructor as well. And while the students I see throughout the day are getting much in the way of preparation for the workplace, I think improvements could be made in the way of preparation for life.

Classes like Applied Mathematics, General Physics II, and Mass Media Law and Ethics are fine in themselves. They do seem to be pretty specific, though. How about some classes that offer both a broader appeal and a more practical application?

Maybe something like Bearing Hardship 101, for instance. Because sooner or later every student here will have to do that.

Developing Patience would be another good one. Also a class I would gladly pay to attend.

Holding Onto Hope should be a requirement for all graduating seniors, if only because hope seems to be so easily snatched away nowadays.

Cleaning Child Vomit 350? A must for the future parent. Being Thankful 400 would be just what people need to keep a little perspective. And let’s not forget Living Well and Dying Better 750.

Like all the other classes offered here, there would be lectures and papers and finals. But I’m thinking the class attendance would be greater. And I’m thinking the grades would matter more, too.

Of course, it’s doubtful any of this would ever happen. On most college campuses knowledge will always trump experience. But maybe that’s just as well. Classes like those probably wouldn’t work anyway. Most of what happens in life you just can’t be prepared for, no matter how much studying you do. Just ask Emily, who now knows that the world might indeed be a classroom, but it’s the sort of classroom where often the tests come first and the lessons come later.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

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