Nearly everyone regretted the exact same thing. They regretted they hadn’t been better students—and not just in high school, but all the way back to elementary school. These good people regretted that they hadn’t been more mature, that they hadn’t applied themselves more diligently, that they hadn’t paid attention in class, and that they hadn’t buckled down and done their assigned homework. They more or less regretted their entire attitude toward education.Gosh, did those young men arrive at school without the habits of the middle class, and did the schools do nothing to suggest that acquiring those habits might matter? Notice: although the essay disaggregates responses by sex, the responses of the females do not differ in ways that might support a war-on-boys interpretation of the troubles the males had.
And while I’m not suggesting that this informal survey was in any way “conclusive,” the difference in responses between men and women was nonetheless surprising. Virtually every man I spoke to blamed himself for his deficiency. He readily acknowledged that in elementary school all he did was watch TV and goof off, and that by the time he reached high school he was more interested in girls and cars and sports than school work.
But while the women also regretted that they, too, hadn’t applied themselves, their assessment differed a bit from the men’s. Women were more willing to fault their parents (particularly their mothers) for not having dogged them enough. They were critical of their mothers for not having sufficiently “pushed” them to be good students, and for not having “had higher [academic] expectations” for them.Perhaps not, but when the mothers didn't develop the cultural capital of their girls, why not? Did the mothers' schooling neglect the development of cultural capital, because doing so was oppressive?
It didn’t seem that any of these women (most of whom were late thirties or older) were especially bitter, or were playing the martyr card, or were using their moms as scapegoats. What they were doing was simply looking back on their lives and candidly recalling that a lack of parental-imposed motivation and discipline had hindered them academically.
In any event, here’s the kicker. Not one of them blamed their teachers.