Created: 9 September 1999. I offer this bit of commentary to all high school and college students, more or less as it was passed on to me. These two passages are mostly for fun, but with a bit of an edge. If you're so inclined, you can talk to me about these at

The author of the first section, Charles Sykes, wrote the following list of things students don't always learn in school. It's in his book, Dumbing Down Our Kids:

Rule 1: Life is not fair; get used to it.

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make $40,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping: they called it "opportunity."

Rule 6: If you screw up, it's not your parents' fault so don't whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning your room, and listening to you tell how idealistic you are. So before you save the rain forest from the bloodsucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for nerds.

Rule 12: Smoking does not make you look cool; it makes you look moronic. And ditto for purple hair and pierced body parts.

Rule 13: Living fast and dying young is romantic - but only until you see one of your peers at room temperature.


I didn't agree with all of this in its original form (passed on to me by a friend), so I've edited this to match my world view more closely.

We, the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid any more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt-free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the members of our society.

We hold this truth to be self-evident: that a whole lot of people were confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a Bill of No Rights.


You don't have the right to a new car, big screen TV or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing you anything.


You don't have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone - not just you! You can leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world is full of people who will say offensive things, and probably always will be. Many of them are simply being idiots, but there's no law against that.


You don't have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful. Do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy because you did something stupid.


You don't have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of yet another generation of professional couch potatoes.


You don't have the right to force your beliefs on others. If you believe strongly in something, that's probably a good thing, in general, but the strength of your beliefs is no guarantee that you're actually right. As an American, you can believe in whatever you want, but the way this works is for you to respect the beliefs of others, including folks you might not particularly like, who have beliefs that directly contradict yours. If you don't like it, tough!


You don't have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim or kill someone, don't be surprised if many of the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.


You don't have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you locked away in a place where you won't have many rights left at all.


You don't have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience. We hate oppressive governments and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like. However, we do not enjoy policing the entire world, and do not want to spend our time, resources, and American lives battling each and every little tyrant with a military uniform and a funny hat, without a damned good reason.


You don't have the right to a job. All of us sure want all of you to have one, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.


You don't have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to pursue happiness, but pursuing it is not the same as having it. If you earn it, all of us will be delighted, but there are no guarantees.