The Fun of Not Going to School
There was once a boy who thought that he could have the very best time in the world if only he did not have to go to school. The birds and the squirrels played all day. Why must he sit on a hard wooden seat and work? Little mistakes in figures could not do very much harm. Suppose he did spell two "too" and little with one "t"! Nobody but the teacher would care. There did not seem to he much use in learning about towns and rivers that he had never seen, or in writing quite so well as the words looked in his copy book.
So he made up his mind to take things into his own hands. If the law of the land said that he must go to school until he was fourteen, it could not make him study or give up any time during the rest of the day. So he slighted his lessons and did just as little as possible. Some days he made believe he had a headache, so that his mother would let him stay at home. Some days he ran away and played in the woods. His work was so poor that he had to stay in one grade two years and in the next grade three years, so that all his friends were far ahead of him, and he had to recite with boys and girls much younger than himself.
At last the law said that he need go to school no more. His teachers had long ago given him up. His father and mother felt that there was no use in keeping him in school when he learned so little. Still he was so young that perhaps he need not go to work in a store just yet.
Now he was free! For a few weeks he had a glorious time. He climbed the trees hunting for birds' nests. He caught trout in the brook and went swim ming in the pool. He slept late in the morning and read story books in his father's easy chair. This was just the life he had dreamed about. Now the days were worth while.
But before long he grew tired of just playing. Somehow the joy of it had flown. When he could play all the time, he found that he did not want to. It was too much like eating all the time, or swimming all the time, or even working all the time. He could not play on the teams, because he did not belong to the school. There was almost no fun in loafing, when you had to loaf alone. He hung around the house asking his mother what he could do next, until at last his father said that he must go to work.
So the boy started out to find a place, sure that he could get one easily and earn a great deal of money. He went first to the grocer.
"Are you quick and sure at figures?" the man asked. "When people come to buy, my men have to reckon up the bills. They must do it, also, in the shortest amount of time, and without making a single mistake. Otherwise they will either charge my customers too much, and people will not trade at my store, or they will charge too little, and so rob me."
The boy thought he could. So the man tested him. But when he looked over the bill which the boy made out, he found three mistakes.
"That will not do," he said. "You can't work here. You should have learned to figure in school. Good morning."
So the boy went on to another store, where he saw a sign that help was wanted.
"I must have some one who can write well and spell correctly," the man said as he looked at him. "Sit down and write me a letter. I can tell then whether you are the kind of boy I need."
The boy sat down and wrote as well as he could. But he had not written for a long time, and he had never written well. So when the man looked at his work, he threw it into the waste-basket.
"No, you will not do," he said. "You can't write and you can't spell. You ought to have learned to do those things in school. Good morning."
It was so everywhere. The boy tried place after place where good wages were paid. But he knew so little that nobody wanted him. At last he became an errand boy. He had to be at the store before seven o'clock in the morning and work until six sometimes until seven and eight—at night. His wages were very small. Some of his friends, whose parents were poor, had had to go to work, too. But they were all in better positions and were paid larger wages than he. When he asked why this was, he found that it was because school had fitted them for their places. For the first time he saw that there was a reason why the law had made him go to school and why his teachers had tried so hard to teach him. He had thought he would have the most fun by slighting his school and getting out of it as soon as possible. And yet his friends seemed to have had a better time in school than he, though he could play in the fields and forests; and they were certainly having a better time now. It seemed very strange.
When he read the papers, he did not know where the cities were or even the countries. He knew nothing of history or of the way in which his own land was governed. The result was that much of the time he did not know what the papers and books and people were talking about. His friends thought him very dull and stupid, and did not seem to care to invite him to their homes.
He grew careless in his work, and lost one place after another. After his father and mother died, he went to live in a tumble-down house on the outskirts of the town. The only work that people would give him was to dig gardens, or sweep the streets, or some other task for which knowledge was not needed. He used to envy the boys and girls with whom he had played and studied once. Some of them were bankers and some were merchants. Some of them were married, and had boys and girls of their own, and lived in lovely homes.
At last he died; and strangers buried him. To-day there is not even a mound to mark the spot, and no one knows his name.