Life: better than all the textbooks combined

Guest blog from The Wildlife Trusts’ Communications Support Officer, Beth Rowland

Mark Twain famously said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”. That’s confusing, isn’t it? Some people might say that education means school or university, but the Collins English Dictionary defines education as “the act or process of acquiring knowledge” – no classrooms, textbooks or exams are mentioned.

I love nature and wildlife, and wish more young people had access to our beautiful countryside so that they could love it too. Too often, teenagers are labelled lazy and apathetic, but I know that is not true. The reality is that few young people in 2016 are allowed the opportunity to fall in love with their environment, as the type of passion that leads to action is not taught on the traditional curriculum.

Prince Ea, filmmaker, poet and motivational speaker, made a film recently where he sued the school system, accusing it of killing creativity and preparing young people for the past – not the future. It is a powerful message that challenged me to rethink the importance of my school grades and university degree.

I have studied the Tudors, the chemical elements and the French conditional tense (which I’m still not sure I understand!) but it is getting out into nature that engages me. I find it much easier to remember butterfly species than I ever did quotes from a novel, and that is because true learning comes from interest, appreciation and wonder, not from sitting in a nice straight line and reciting from a textbook.

Learning in a classroom is not the right thing for every young person, and it is important for education to include learning what you like, discovering hobbies and developing personal skills like confidence, self-esteem, passion and ambition.

This is where Our Bright Future comes in. It is working to champion young people, and give them an education that goes further than a textbook: it is real-life experience. Projects run by Our Bright Future equip their participants with knowledge, leadership skills, networks and contacts, therefore creating the opportunities that have been denied to these young people.

As a young person myself, I am proud and encourage by the work done by Our Bright Future because it gives me hope for the future. Together, the next generation is improving the quality of our built and natural environments, regardless of our school grades or whether we passed or failed algebra.

Not that long ago I would have been horrified if someone told me my grades weren’t vital to my future success; and don’t get me wrong – they are important and school teaches you many wonderful things. But if you haven’t found something that inspires and motivates you in the classroom, look outside of the walls and into your environment. Some of the world’s most celebrated influential people weren’t top of the class. Albert Einstein failed the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology entrance exam on his first attempt. Self-made billionaire Richard Branson had a tough time in school due to his dyslexia, and Princess Diana failed all her O-Level examinations – the equivalent of today’s GCSEs.

Often it is passion, determination and perseverance that are the most important enablers of success. Our Bright Future provides the support and infrastructure to young people who do not have the right skills, experience or connections to change the world. Whether it is practical conservation, leadership, construction or campaigning that you are passionate about, Our Bright Future can help you take the first step to influence and shape your world. It is time to rethink your education and decide for yourself what you want to learn.

Watch Prince Ea’s film here – I dare you not to be inspired!

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