Although school and academic knowledge are currently a huge part of the formation of any human being, it is important to remember that they are not everything in life and much less define people’s future or abilities. As a sample of this, there are some examples of great figures in science, art, and entertainment whose achievements have been of great use to humanity, and yet their teachers did not predict any prosperous future for them because of their terrible behavior in class or a poor ability to “learn” or “concentrate.”
Alexander Graham Bell
One of the most creative minds of the modern era spent a childhood hating school, which took up much of his leisure time. Graham Bell preferred to go for walks rather than shut himself up with his classmates and teachers, so it was not surprising that his school performance wasn’t optimal.
For this reason, he had many problems with his extremely demanding father, so the boy decided to leave home at the age of 15 and go to live with his grandfather, who did not demand anything. With him, he spent the afternoons reading and having fun. Although he had to return to his father three years later, the passion he learned from his grandfather and his father’s strictness eventually turned him into a great inventor. He ended up changing communications forever with the invention of the telephone.
This leader lived a difficult childhood and adolescence, full of mockery from his classmates and teachers, who constantly discriminated against him because of his accent. That is how Napoleon developed a sullen and hostile personality. In school, his teachers considered him mediocre in strategy lessons, although they recognized that the boy put a lot of effort and dedicated many hours to his studies.
“I have always liked learning. What I don’t like is to be taught,” is one of the iconic phrases made by that renowned British prime minister. Perhaps this thought explains why Churchill had to repeat a grade of primary school and take twice the entrance exam to the Sandhurst Academy. Still, Churchill is recognized by history for his unique politic strategies.
No one would expect that a child with speech problems and slow learning would end up winning the Nobel Prize in Physics and revolutionizing the history of humanity. Indeed, Albert Einstein suffered during most of his childhood from the frustration of the severe discipline imposed on him by his parents. It was until he was 9 years old that Einstein managed to develop as an autodidact in the subjects of biology, philosophy, and geometry. However, in his adolescence, he suffered a strong depression as a consequence of the loneliness caused by his shyness, so he had bad grades again, to the extent that a teacher told him that he would never achieve anything important in his life. After this statement, Albert Einstein decided to abandon his studies.
After a few years, the young man tried to go back to school, but he had to take two university entrance exams to get a place, and inside the school, Albert suffered from the school’s rigor. When he finished the academic program, he was the only one of his classmates not to find a job immediately. However, luck knocked on his door when he got a job at the patent office in Bern, where his work gave him time to develop the ideas that revolutionized science forever.
Charles Darwin lived a peaceful and happy childhood until his father decided to put him in a religious school when he was only 8 years old. Darwin suffered a lot from the rigor of school and religion. His performance was terrible, and he did not feel the slightest attraction to learning. He preferred to spend his afternoons observing nature and collecting plants and insects, activities that his father considered a waste of time and embarrassing for the family.
To vindicate himself, Darwin decided to study medicine, but he failed; however, thanks to this career he learned about taxonomy and zoology, so he decided to lean towards these studies, and, inspired by Humboldt’s stories, decided to begin a journey that changed the study of biology and the history of humanity.
Thomas Alba Edison
His parents and teachers considered him stupid, and they didn’t mean it as an insult, they just couldn’t find another adjective to describe his poor ability in school. After being expelled from school for the third time, his mother decided to educate him at home, where Edison was able to put a lot of knowledge into practice and realized how much mathematics and theories bored him. Eventually, despite his family’s opinions, Edison became one of the most revolutionary inventors in history.
This likable comedian is a great example that circumstances do not define people. He was born into a very poor family, with a very toxic family. Due to their economic conditions, neither he nor his brother could go to school, so their mother tried to educate them at home until she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and the children had to live in an orphanage. In boarding school, education was extremely disciplined, a completely new experience for Chaplin, which he did not receive with open arms. He preferred to spend his classes and breaks making his classmates laugh with different personifications and narrations. In his youth, he chose to join an itinerant theater company and thus -unknowingly- became the most important comedian of the 20th century.
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva