ED2016 Columns ED2016 Comedy

Orlando Baxter: Five life lessons from a US high school teacher

By | Published on Thursday 25 August 2016

Orlando Baxter

So well done to all those teens down in England who got their GCSE results today. Assuming they were the kind of results that deserve a “well done”. Though even with A* grades, have you really been taught anything useful about real life?
Bonafide American high school teacher Orlando Baxter is doing comedy at the Fringe this year, and here are the six things he’d teach his students about what to expect out there, if he was ever given a free rein in the classroom…

1. An introduction to financial literacy
Most kids grow up in very controlled environments. They receive allowances, they have chores, and are given a curfew. But the moment they turn 18, they have credit card offers flooding their mailboxes like porn spam. If an urgent email from Alexa – a gorgeous woman you’ve never met but who wants to meet up with you tonight – gives you reason to pause, then so too should the promise of free liquid capital with no strings attached.

Because, let’s be real, there are not only strings, but whips, chains and handcuffs involved, and no, I’m not talking about your date with Alexa. Learning about credit, student loans, interest rates, retirement, and even basic banking accounts, is paramount. Kids need to be taught how to spot and avoid the financial pitfalls that could really hurt them later in life.

2. Relationships 101: Picking your partner
It seems that people put more care into ordering take-out than they do into selecting the right partner. Like many adults, it seems that people sort of end up with one another, as opposed to actively seeking out the right life partner to grow and build with.

And that’s crazy to me! Just think about all of the things your partner has access to: your toothbrush, your food, your genitalia. You see where I’m going with this? Your choice of partner can and will drastically influence the direction of your life.

Take care to pick someone that supports, respects and inspires you, and someone that you you really admire. Nobody wants to end up like [insert any famous couple whose relationship ended disastrously].

3. The art of taking an insult
Gone are the good old days when it was acceptable to punch someone in the face for calling you stupid, or ugly, or saying you developed man boobs over the summer holiday. At some point, someone will offend, insult, or disrespect you, and you will have to learn to deal with it like a mature adult.

As kids, we take these sorts of things very personally, but as adults, well, we probably feel the same way, but you can’t go around beating up everyone that makes you mad. At some point, you have to learn to control and behave yourself, in order to survive in the real world. Unless someone insults your mother, then all bets are off.

4. You’re not that special…get over it (lecture with lab)
Having positive self-esteem is great, but having an inflated ego might make you a narcissist, which is not so great. In addition to being vain and selfish, a narcissist might also assume that he or she will be good at any and everything. This troubling ideal is ingrained into nearly every aspect of some children’s upbringing, and it is problematic.

Take Ted, for example:

Scenario 1: Ted knows he’s a bad cook, but he’s okay with that. Ted has a date coming up with Beth, a woman that he’s interested in, and wants to impress. Ted makes a reservation at a fantastic restaurant, and he and Beth enjoy themselves, and leave happy.

Scenario 2: Ted is a bad cook, but he doesn’t know that. Ted believes that he is a great cook because all of his life, he’s been told that he’s great at everything. Ted has a date coming up with Beth, a woman that he’s interested in, and wants to impress. Ted invites Beth over to his house, for a home-cooked meal. Ted’s terrible and improperly-prepared food causes Beth to develop food poisoning. When Beth leaves for the hospital, Ted offers the remaining food to his neighbour’s cat, who then dies. Ted is charged with animal cruelty, and Beth testifies against him at his trial.

Moral of the story, don’t be like Ted. Be realistic and honest with yourself. If you allow yourself to believe that you are good at everything, then you might miss your true calling. To be successful, work hard and focus your efforts on things that make you happy, and which you might actually be good at.

5. It’s OK to take the easy way out. Sometimes
You hate piano lessons? Quit. Try the guitar if it tickles your fancy. People who live by the phrase “quitters never win”, might find themselves languishing in unhappy marriages, dead-end jobs, and all-around sad existences. Remember, quitters aren’t losers, sometimes they’re just people who no longer want to be miserable. Do the things that make you happy, but be careful to learn the difference between smart selections and slacking.

6. Don’t be an asshole/ne bice(r) to people
When dealing with your siblings, parents, teachers, other students, and even strangers; practice kindness. I know it sounds cliché, but being kind makes for a happier existence. Plus, you never know who that guy or girl that you were mean to could turn out to be. Maybe the next Beyonce. Or your future boss. Either way, they’ll remember if you were a jerk.

‘Orlando Baxter: Suspensions, Detentions And Summer Vacations’ was performed at Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2016.