Up the down staircase. Part 1 “School”
Or who the rules of American life are written for
Not everyone has read the famous book by Bel Kaufman in which she tells us what it is like to swim against the stream. However, all of us have experienced this on our own backs upon arriving in the US. Oftentimes, we just had no time to get to know the Rules, and it took us years before we realized how often we had acted against the Rules totally ignoring their importance. The reason why this country and its economic system are so desirable for everyone is that successful people are highly appreciated here, and a lot is being done to make EVERYONE SUCCESSFUL. Successful people are loved and respected here; everyone is willing to offer them services, to do business with them. What’s more, in America, they teach people how to achieve success.
People here are used to being taught everything: how to boil an egg and how to build a house; how to use food stamps and how to create a multimillion corporation. This is all true but… the system of education both academic and professional is meant for the Americans and not for us, the newcomers. This is the reason why, even by closely following the instructions, we sooner or later realize that they don’t work for us the way they are supposed to, and we fail to achieve the desired result.
We start learning English – it’s a 2- year course – but we need it today. We start putting aside money for the emergency fund (which according to the instructions takes ten years to create), but we might need it tomorrow. We buy Whole Life Insurance to provide a financial umbrella for ourselves and the children but have to give it up after a few years having realized that either we can’t afford it or the savings are too low. We start saving for our children’s education but its cost grows faster than our savings. Each of us, I’m sure, has his own list of the attempts to live according to the Rules alongside with the sad statistics of their low efficiency.
American educational system has stood the test of time, so there is no reason to doubt that it works, but… not for us. Newcomers to America are not as numerous as people who have lived here all their lives. The Rules are made for the majority – and it is the way it should be. Any business, including education, is aimed at big numbers, but we, the immigrants, do not belong there, and that is why are of no interest to that sector of the market. We have no choice but to accept the American system of education, and what’s the result? Why don’t all the newcomers become millionaires? We follow the instructions but face bankruptcy much more often than those who grew up in this country. We follow the instructions but don’t have a decent pension or sufficient savings. We follow the instructions but fail to pay for our children’s education or pay off our houses and cars before retirement.
It’s true that we are taught everything, except HOW to become American. There is nobody we can rely on, but ourselves. This is the reason why some of us open all kinds of schools and programs for immigrants offering them assistance in getting professional training. Many thanks to those enthusiasts. We have to look for the ways to save time and money and manage to achieve positive results within months rather than years. To overcome obstacles on the difficult road to success, we have to start by creating the budget.
More to follow, see Part 2.
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