Child rearing is a funny old thing, and depending on the child’s age it changes all the time.
When kids are born, you strive to see the person inside the baby. Homing in on every movement, glimpse and sound they utter, painfully trying to identity your baby as being unique. You celebrate all signs of individualism and take pride in the fact they are who they are they, they are not like anyone else, they are themselves.
As they move on into school and begin socialising with others, you take pride they are able to fit in and participate but always encourage them to be themselves, stand by their convictions, don’t feel under pressure to conform.
By secondary school, although they have proven themselves to be adept at not conforming you reassure them that their uniqueness will take them through life and ultimately be their biggest asset. Through all the ups and down of teenage life, friendships, boyfriends, girlfriends, nofriends, you assure them that they will emerge from childhood and land in adulthood appreciated for all that they are and all you see them to be.
They finish school and get ready to study what they always wanted, what they always dreamed and what you always told them they could do. They sit the Leaving Cert, get the results and get their number. And the number may as well be written on a plaque and hanging your neck as you walk down the street showing everyone your worth after 18 years of being in the world. Now, depending on the three digits that you brandish on your plaque, you will be greeted and treated differently, some will receive admiration even adoration, others, respect, more, a clap on the back and perhaps some will receive sympathy and the offer to repeat. Because that is the great injustice that the Leaving Cert is. It whittles our bright, funny, intelligent and fun-loving teenagers down to a number, a three-digit number which defines the course they take in life from that day on.
All day last Wednesday, and most of Thursday, every one of the 58,000 people that sat the Leaving Certificate 2017 paper were defined by a number and as someone that was once defined by that three-digit number, I can only offer one observation, and it’s that from the Friday after the Leaving Cert results come out, the focus comes off the number and comes onto the next step. That’s right, no sooner have you completed your lap around the town with your number plaque, than the whole town begin asking, what are you going to do with the points?
And this becomes the actual crucial point in the points system because it’s really not about how many points you get, it’s about how you use them. And whether it’s Actuarial and Financial Studies in UCD or Digital Marketing in Blanchardstown who’s to say which graduate will be more successful in the long run, or even the short run. It’s one thing to get the points and get the course you thought you always wanted it’s another thing entirely to pass and excel at that course and to be happy in it is another exercise. Flip side, thousands of creative and successful young people going out and completing non-degree courses that are leading them to their ideal career.
Of course, its devastating for those who are a maths grade off Mary I or a few points away from the Uni down the road, but it’s worth noting that while the points really matter when it comes to the direction of your education path, your life path is a different thing altogether. And it’s not the destination that matters per se, but the journey (to Letterkenny IT). These are the things that form us and these are things that make the ride worthwhile. So, this Friday, two days after the results, get over the points, and get the point. Look at the choices available, after all isn’t that what life is all about, making the best choices of what is available to us and above all, be more than just a number.