On rock stars, head injuries and school kids

  Ciro De Siena 

School ruined my life. Let me explain. You see when I was young, as in before I hit teenage status, I could sing – properly. Choir and everything. Now that’s not that remarkable, except the problem was that I was in a typical all-boys private Joburg high school, where rugby was the religion and everything lined up behind it.

This meant of course that if you didn’t play rugby you were gay, and my goodness, if you were in the choir well then you were a lost cause. And so I wangled my way out of the choir, and tried the whole rugby thing. In my second match ever, a practice game against my own school, a large bloke in my class picked me up and dropped me on my head. This may explain a few of my oddities but its immediate impact was that I had headaches for six months. At which point I switched to hockey. However, in hindsight, I should have gone back to the choir. The reason is that today I have a 16-year old brother who has a band going. They’ve been playing together since they were 12 which means they’re actually pretty decent, and recently they scraped together their pocket money and recorded in studio. Predictably their music was above average but their vocals were rather poor.

And this is where I would have stepped in. I met a choirmaster over the vac who told me that the only way for guys to keep their voices – as their hormones play havoc with their anatomies – is to keep singing through puberty and well into their teenage years. And, as explained, I didn’t. Thus, and through perfectly rational deduction, if I hadn’t been at that soul-crushing man-school I would have been a rock star today. Which is upsetting, because rock stars have lots of sex.

I suppose my point here is that school, in its current form, is rather crap. Single-sex schools create testosterone-infested breeding grounds of over-exerted machismo. Co-ed schools offer way too much distraction.

But for me the biggest problem is this new namby-pamby lovey-dovey hugsy-wugsy approach that schools seem to have adopted recently. Kids cannot fail, they get pushed through. A pass is 30% and if you don’t like maths you can take “survival maths” which is effectively a course on how to locate a calculator’s ‘on’ switch.I did homework with my 11-year-old cousin this vac and to be honest I was frightened by the whole experience. Partly because he has ADD from Satan but mostly because if something or someone doesn’t intervene in his life between now and the real world, he’s never, ever going to survive. Crikey, he won’t even survive the holiday that is university.

While I might get over never being a rock star, I won’t be chuffed if our schools produce a bunch of dependent cry-babies who’ve never failed at anything. The truth is, though, I have no idea what to do about it.


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