The whole path from elementary school through to college graduation feels like a career development game where the stakes are raised every year. Fail once off the path, and it's Walmart Greeter for you, forever! It's no wonder I still wake up in a cold sweat over it, 30 years on.
And then promptly waltz upstairs with my coffee, sit in front my computer, read the news and (mostly) happily write program on computers all day, while playing with my border collies and walking through my hobby vineyard in my spare time.
School sucked for me, and I kinda... turned out despite it... but I somehow have to get my kids through it.
For my EE120 review session when we staggered in, the GSI consoled us saying if it meant anything, we’d done as much in one semester as he’d done in two and a half at his school and he was a Berkeley grad student which is insanely competitive to get into in its own right.
But my other recurring dream is about being an LDS missionary again. I think that experience in real life was even more stressful than college—definitely more guilt-inducing. In the dream I'm my current self—mid-40s, married, kids, career, atheist—and yet somehow the church has managed to coerce me back into the mission field alongside the 19-year-old true believers.
Almost every other former Mormon missionary I've asked about it reports having similar recurring dreams.
This was more or less my theory already. Our first, foundational experiences of anxiety, or at least specific kinds of anxiety.
I'm curious: was anyone here home schooled during high school and then didn't attend college? Where does your mind go to for the equivalent of the "institutional anxiety" dream scenario?
I eventually got over it. The dreams stopped. Once I got to a certain age, I just accepted I was a stupid-ass kid who made mistakes. Live and learn.
BTW, if you're still in school, don't cheat. Take it from me. I spent more time and effort on cheating than I would have if I just did the work as assigned.
I was pretty traumatized with parental expectations in school. Starting from high school, to college, to graduate school, I always had the same dream at the start of semesters - I'm incredibly late to the first class to the point I basically miss it. It has a cascading effect where in the dream, I basically feel doomed to be behind all semester. I've never had this dream outside of when I was a student, and that includes a very long hiatus in finishing college.
This is story is one of those things where you read it and the explanation is so obvious, but it never hit you until you see it written out.
But this doesn't give any meaningful answer to the question, just some speculation that anyone could make and which doesn't seem to be backed by any scientific evidence (of course, I'm aware there is probably no such evidence, but they could be more straightforward about the answer to the title question being "we have no idea").
I told my former teammates about this probably two years ago, and as it turned out, many of them have been having this exact same dream.
When I get really anxious, I've learned to notice it not because of how I feel, but because of what I think about. My mind does two things. It will either distract me with soothing ideas (video games, side gigs) or (like TFA) it will go full anxiety and I'll hyper-focus on anything in the past that made me feel helpless, angry, or afraid.
Anxiety manifests as exam dreams, resurfacing relationship issues suddenly, body image woes, or just constantly checking to see if I have my wallet.
There's a much simpler explanation that works for me. Your mind is trying to explain the signals it's receiving, and it is grasping at straws by surfacing memories that triggered similar signals. It's a byproduct of a correlation engine and that's pretty much it.
I understand the obsession with divining meaning in arbitrary shared experience, but if my 350,000 hrs of use has taught me anything, it's that the mind is an arbitrary, guideless storyteller.
There's actually quite a bit of research supporting this, it turns out.
No, there are no good schools.
High schools went downhill when teachers stopped spinning homespun silk
All the dreams I have about high school and university (and it’s not so many) involve having fun with the friends I made there.
I kind of have to wonder what other people go through.
Could be an interesting research topic.
So similar to the stories in the article
I don't think I've ever had a dream like that. I have dreamed I was back hanging out with my friends again, or exploring a weird sub-basement under the school, but nothing like what people are describing.
During the dream the mind starts to realize something is wsrong, like "it is Ssunday why am I at school" , but sometimes the thought is "I did not prepared in years for this subject, in fact I was sure I finished the university, but then if I am here it means I still need to pass one more exam because I did not finished, then you get stressed out that something went wrong with the birocracy or you forgot to do some exam or sign something and you don't have finished"
My opinion is that there is no encoded way your subconscions is telling you are stressed about something, I remember in my high school years , my eye sight was getting worse slowly and I had many dreams where I am getting blind or my eyes are glued and can't opened them, pretty direct manifestation of the fears and anxiety without any metaphors with hidden meaning.
The only consistent thing I can say is that if the dream situation occurs in real life, then my feelings and emotional response to the situation will likely be the same. That's been the sole valid anchor for me.
Anxiety about "authority figure" is a little odd, for example, relating to my school dream of having to vacate my hostel room and realising I lost the key..a friend comes up with "I think I have it" and upon checking the keybunch, it doesn't have my room's key. I'm not panicking but don't want the room door to be smashed down when I'm not around. I have something old and precious inside I need to grab.
But for me, it is speaking up to the teacher (telling him he is wrong), or confidently not caring about what the teacher is ordering the class to do.
Or event confidently deciding not to go to school today.
I can earn a living with my programming skills, I have 0 reasons to endure school bullshit anymore.
It’s not that surprising that a situation you dealt with frequently in your teenage years is still there. I usually bluff my way through high school dream situations successfully. Feels good.
But some part of us, call it spirit if you like, still recognises and observes what is going on. Perhaps it tries to nudge us back towards authenticity and away from the entrained, domesticated behaviour, that will have us coding our own future dystopia.
Now I have recurring dreams about having one class that I haven’t studied for at all and there are 6-8 weeks left in the semester. Long enough that I could study at the expense of literally all of my waking time, but short enough that there is real anxiety I might fail this class and not be able to graduate.
At least now I know having these dreams now is evidence of waking anxiety that I have to manage.
I’m married and we’ve been together for 10 years. I regularly have dreams featuring my wife’s sister as she was in my grade and I see her pretty often now. My wife’s name/persona will only very occasionally be in my dreams, but never her face. I didn’t know her back then. I also have a nearly one year old daughter and she’s been referenced in dreams but not seen.
To be honest, it freaks me out a little. I had a ski accident when I was 12 where I had a concussion, so maybe that did something. Is anyone else out there like me?
but i also have vivid memories of being only months old and laying in the crib...
but I cant recall what I had for lunch yesterday
my dream trigger is if I attempt to use a phone in dream or read a pricetag, or attempt to clean up a mess...
Still today, 30 years later, I get these dreams. Usually when I have a big work or life challenge coming up. And the nightmares still boost my confidence (though the nightmares themselves suck).
I also spent about a decade in the U.S. Air Force, and even though I’ve been out 15 years now I still dream that I’ve forgotten my uniform hat, and separately that I get called back in and am fearful because I still have only the previous generation of uniform style, which was phased out years ago.
I finally realized it was just a carry over from years of being a real procrastinator when it came to getting my school work done and the gnawing panic I would get knowing I had a lot of work and little time to do it.
It was weird that after recognizing the source that feeling dissipated pretty quickly and I really embraced being free of it all
I guess since I never worried about any of that crap in school, I’m not haunted by it.
After my 3rd job out of school, I stopped having those dreams.
The dreams I have are from the same age range, but are about making sure I get all those entitled Moms their Furbies before Christmas Eve while working at Toys R Us.
It isn't about school.
School and high school are the formative years of your life where you are essentially building who you will be as a person. College is generally your first taste of independence.
Do people who go to college as mature students have the same dreams?
i wonder if this is a consequence of the modern system or just inbuilt to us as a species.
I had a great time at school. Never learned for tests or exams, always good (enough) grades, never got bullied, lots of parties and girls and later on drugs.
Here I hope to give some examples for some lessons that might help others. Some of what I give are opinions where some people might differ.
I consider the US system of formal education K-12, college, and graduate school through Master's based on classes, tests, and grades. Ph.D. is related but often quite different. I can't comment on schools of law or medicine.
This formal education does a lot of good in the sense that the US would be a lot worse off if the whole system were abolished.
Still, a lot about this system is too close to being a racket, a lot of misleading the students, a lot of serious harm done to some of the students, and good for the schools.
Yes, I remember school! I don't have bad dreams but can't forget.
Some that I can't forget are the girls! Uh, maybe these days it is politically incorrect to mention, but I was a boy, now am a man, there has been no ambiguity, and I very much do remember the girls. Often they tried hard to be be pretty and otherwise feminine and were very successful.
E.g., in 9th grade algebra class, I looked over to the right along the wall and saw some of the girls, perfect posture, very well dressed, immaculate, perfect decorum, etc. They struggled with the course, but I found it easy; so at times I tried to help them, but they didn't want my help!
When I was 14, I met a girl of 12, and we tried to be boyfriend/girlfriend. About 18 months later we had a misunderstanding, that we handled poorly, and broke up.
But she was the prettiest human female I ever saw in person or otherwise. I downloaded her high school graduation picture from Facebook and keep it in the UR corner of my computer screen. Can't forget her.
A few years ago, a women explained to me, at that age, 12 and early teens, girls are the prettiest they ever get -- seems true for the girls I in was in class with in grades 6-12. Can't forget.
But there is a lot I'd prefer to forget:
From nearly all the teachers nearly all the time, I got a lot of contempt.
In math and science, occasionally I would fight back, take a problem others were struggling with and solve it. And I had some significant victories -- on the standardized tests of aptitude and accomplishment, in math and science I was one of the best students in the school, but mostly the contempt continued.
Once for fun I attacked how to inscribe a square in a semi-circle. My approach seemed novel so I wanted to check. The teacher said "You can't do that.". Later I discovered that she was wrong, that I had reinvented similitude. Can't forget. I learned a lesson: In K-12 and college, some of the teachers are actually not very good with their subject.
The social situation was a mystery to me: It was very competitive, with maybe even a pecking order. I had no idea what was going on; I was no good at the game if only because I had no idea there was a game.
Some of the boys took athletics quite seriously, but I saw no reason to do that.
Some of the pecking order depended on academic performance and, as I look back, maybe I was doing well at that (but didn't know it).
Then for the girls, eventually it dawned on me that for the girls my age, I likely was not going to be very successful socially because I was fighting Mother Nature, Darwin, and likely the parents of the girls. Instead, once the girls started being interested in boys, they were more interested in boys 2-4 years older than they were.
But there is a cliche: The boys are interested in things and the girls, in people. So, in the social pecking order game, the girls will dominate.
I wish someone had explained to me that game and other issues and lessons of socialization.
(3) Tests and Grades.
My father was an expert in education, had his Master's in it, yes, had a teaching certificate for grade school, and had a career in high end education theory and practice for the US Navy. But, for my grades, he didn't care! So, at home I was getting no big push to make A's. Lesson: If he didn't care much about grades, maybe they were not very important.
In the 4th grade, we had a spelling test, and I missed "pneumonia". When I saw how the correct spelling was so far from being either intuitive or phonetic, I still wanted to learn the important material but gave up on spelling and grades.
So, I learned the arithmetic but didn't bother with the tedious, redundant exercises in a big workbook. The teacher sent a message home that I would complete the workbook or she would fail me. Dad gave me a little arithmetic test and concluded that, yes, I was plenty good at the arithmetic. Then he looked at the workbook, and together we used a calculator to fill in all the results. So, again I got contempt for grades.
I never got over my contempt for grades. In particular, I never lost sleep, got an anxiety disorder, or had bad dreams about grades.
My summary: Knowledge can be really important. Formal education can be one way to get some parts of the important knowledge. But courses, credits, and grades are usually a bit distant from being directly helpful later in school or in practice.
In some situations, a perfect or nearly perfect grade point average can be helpful. In nearly all academic situations, getting such a grade point average is very stressful. There is considerable question if such grades are worth the stress.
Short of perfect or near perfect grades, possibly surprisingly grades don't count for much, either for or against the student.
In particular, possibly surprisingly, in the best US research universities, for a Ph.D., there is some contempt for the idea that a Ph.D. will be awarded for high grades in courses.
There is something of a secret concern, cliche: Some student has been making grades of A from the first grade on, has done really well at doing what she (the main concern is for girls!) was told, but can't do original research. This concern is likely more from some profs being arrogant about their research than they are with actual experience with such students.
Some universities make a point of stating that there is no coursework requirement for a Ph.D. Instead of grades, a usual hurdle is the qualifying exams. And important beyond all else is publishable original research.
Or, in short, once submit a paper for publication, no one checks your grade point average. And once the paper is accepted, no one cares about your grade point average.
In grad school, I got contempt from the faculty. Then I took an unsolved problem in an old subject and got a nice solution. The work was clearly publishable. The contempt went away. Then no one cared about my grades, when I made A's and when I didn't.
In general there are ways other than course grades to show aptitude and accomplishment, and usually these other ways can make up for grades of B, C.
K-12 can give, each year, for each subject, a standardized achievement test. A student who does really well on one those tests should have a reason to complain if they are also given a low grade in the subject.
E.g., there are the SAT and GRE exams. And over a wide range of possibilities, at times actual practical achievement can count a lot more than grades.
When I was a prof teaching an applied math course, I had a little approach: I would hand out some exercises, work them in class, state that the tests would be like the exercises, and advise the students "If you can do well on these exercises, then you should do well on the test."
But exercises on the tests would be fairly easy -- making an A was not difficult.
Then the rest of the class would be for more advanced material. Students could take it seriously or not as they wished. And some of the students did take the more advanced material seriously: It was good working with them, fun for me, productive for them, with no stress about grades.
So I think this dictum applies: When a title asks "Why" first ask "If".
I tried at least 5 times to finish college. I honestly gave it "the old college try" over, and over, and over again. I really wanted to please my father with that piece of paper in my hand. But that path just wasn't for me.
Elementary school and high school were marvelous, formative experiences for me. The schools were truly safe, secure environments where the Catholic faculty and staff respected me and upheld my human dignity, no matter what. I was never hurt or mistreated by the Irish sisters, nor by the priests and religious, or lay teachers. Now contrast that with my home life where I was subjected to endless shame, emotional trauma, and humiliation. I basically wanted to escape to school and stay there forever.
Unfortunately this came apart at the seams in college, because guess what? My parents had always been the ones pushing and cajoling me through homework and projects and tests and perfect attendance. Without my dual-helicopter parents doing all the work for me, I was doomed to failure, over and over in college. So I dropped out again and again. It wasn't for lack of trying.
Years ago, I did have "school flashback" dreams. I was naked in class. I forgot to study for a final exam. I was being teased or bullied by classmates. Yeah, it was all on replay for years, but I worked past that.
I took a final swing at earning a degree and I got halfway to an Associate's. But truthfully, I did finish what I started, because I earned three professional certifications and landed a fantastic steady job. So in the end, my college days weren't wasted, despite all the credits I'll leave on the table.
I'm grateful for the faculty, staff, and admins who always treated me with utmost respect, kindness, and reminded me of my innate human dignity, and through them I was able to discern a vocation as an educator in my own right.
I don't know anyone who ever dreams about school (non-US obviously)