After dropping out of school in the 1920s

After dropping out of school in the 1920s, Cecil Smith, 94, of Westlake Village becomes the oldest known recipient of the GED. [An essay question was] what have you learned since leaving school?

                        – from a 2002 article by Steve Chawkins, LA Times

You learn to answer questions with more questions,
because you honestly don’t know.
You go to school while young,
but all you learn then
is how answers will fit on a page.

What you don’t learn is what will happen.
You get old, lose your wife, your children move out.
In the process you become something more specific.
You are an upholsterer.
You worked on diesels.
You got fired from selling tools in 1938.
Your shoulder hurts because you moved a couch in 1972.
You know you have enough to retire on,
because you’ve retired.

What you learn after leaving school
is only one answer, but it’s the answer
that fits the known facts. Beyond that,
it’s still too early to tell.

What happens next?
What difference will it make?
How much longer?
Can I try again?

Last edited 2008

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