The School Of Hard Knocks

                                                                                         On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek


Who Are Graduates Of The School Of Hard Knocks?


All too often conversations about who had (has) it rough in life devolve into unstated debates wherein speakers subconsciously fish for words to express their plight.  On the one hand, those who lack extensive educations are inclined to justify their present status or social standing by pointing out that they went through the school of hard knocks; while smugly taking stock of the supercilious attitudes of their antagonists who presumably reside in ivory towers.  On the other side of the ideological battle are those higher educated antagonists who presumably look down on their opponents precisely because they do not make strong arguments, and do not have the strength of evidence on their sides to fortify their positions.  A classic battle between successful and confident street smart survivors who attended the school of hard knocks—and those pointy-headed, silver spoon-in-the-mouth eggheads who might be spotted driving their BMWs outside Harvard Yard.

Would that the issue be so simple, so clear cut.  Well, it is not so simple; and never has been simple.  Nor is the imagery of a school (or college) of hard knocks.  In the first place, the Footloose Forester does not know what the expression “the school of hard knocks” really entails.  It means too many different things to too many people.  Don't bother to look it up in the dictionary; yes there is a dictionary definition, but in common use, it means anything the speaker wants it to mean.



If you don't have a diploma, just create one for yourself


In the humble but considered opinion of the Footloose Forester, the expression is a throw-away line that is so ill-conceived that it is almost worthless.  As a self-professed splitter in the world of generalist lumpers of concepts and the topic-specific splitters of those concepts, the Footloose Forester can only make his case by himself being specific about his views.

As an entrée comment, for example; the Footloose Forester thinks it is appropriate to know if attending the school of hard knocks has a meaningful age of entry, a recognizable curriculum, a promotional criterion, and an accepted graduation ceremony; whereby anyone who inquires will know who attended, who prospered and who can boast that they are legitimate graduates.  Without some clear indicators of what is being discussed, the whole concept of the school of hard knocks serves neither as a merit badge of achievement nor as a credential of social status. 

More to the point, who gets recognition as being a graduate of the school of hard knocks?  Does such status accrue only to people who struggled financially or socially in life, but somehow were unable to attend college?  Should not members of the college-educated populace who also struggled to get into and through college also be entitled to say that they, too, attended the school of hard knocks, in addition to attending the college of hard knocks? Where does that vaunted education begin, and where does it end?  Or does it ever end?

It might be said that the vast majority of community college students are presently experiencing the rigors of the college of hard knocks, just as they have weathered the storms of early family life, adolescence, and early adulthood.   By that measure, it can be argued, almost everyone in that category goes to the school of hard knocks. For the fortunate who now look back to times of strife and struggle only in the rearview mirror, few would argue that they know a thing or two about being knocked about; in the school of hard knocks.  But that clichéd school is not the sole domain of the less gifted, less talented, less educated. Many a tenured college professor also earned their degrees and their status as attendees in the universal school of hard knocks.

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