Gaining a second education, Part one.

oseWell, I listened to Geek Gab last night (thrilled to get the shout out guys) and it got me to thinking about my literary education. Specifically how I missed out on the pulps. I have some thoughts.

As an adult, I’ve always believed that the responsibility for teaching your kids is split between the state and the family. With obvious caveats for those that choose home-schooling obviously. Some families are up for the task, but, based on my own and my wife’s’ experience of working in schools, most are not. 100% of the responsibility is placed on the school, with the parents refusing to do what needs to be done to create decent, well-rounded individuals. Those kids will struggle, state schools simply lack the resources to succeed here.

My parents were split. My mother, who I spent most of my youth with left the school to it. No help whatsoever. My father, stepmother and her parents, for the two years I lived with them, were the complete opposite. My mum taught me to read, that’s it. My father and grandfather taught me to love reading and that’s a much harder thing to do. They got me interested in reading broadly across fiction and non-fiction, classics and the new stuff. I read more in those two years than I would in the next six. This was all the grounding I would get in Appendix N type literature, and even that was limited to Wellman and Howard. (There was also Twain and Heinlein and Herbert to name but a few,)

Education isn’t set up to inspire a love of reading. It has no desire to push you towards books that will expand your mental horizons. Individual teachers might, if they’re dedicated and like you, but the system isn’t designed to. It’s easy for a love of books to be lost, for a single teacher to take that away forever. Again, I’ve seen that happen which is why parents stepping in and accepting some responsibility for their kids’ education is so important. Feed your kids with books, read them together, inspire that love because I’m telling you now schools won’t.

I got a good grounding in literature at school. Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton as well as Dickens, Austen, Steinbeck and the Great War Poets. That’s how they were taught, by the way, all in capitals. We learned to read, dissect for comprehension and then regurgitate for the teachers required meaning. And if you don’t think your grade was based on how closely your essay followed the teachers’ political leanings I’ve got a bridge for sale on the Thames you can buy.

I read Dante and Solzhenitsyn from the school library as well as Poul Anderson, Silverberg and Piers Anthony. I blame Anthony for my love of serial novels, his Xanth series hooked me as a twelve-year-old. That wasn’t school though, I stumbled across him, random fortune put him in my way. That’s the key point here though, without someone guiding you, someone knowledgeable it’s all so damned random.

I left school at 16 and joined the army. I honestly thought my education was over. I’d had dreams of being a writer, what reader doesn’t, but reality intrudes. I carried on reading, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what. At some point the army decided to educate me, to fill in the parts that were missing. I got A Levels and somewhere along the way that love of the written word flared up again.

My second education had begun, and this time it was solely down to me.


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