Degrees, Diplomas and Common Sense

When I was in school. In the 7th grade. I failed 6 subjects to make a point. I failed in the final exams of the 7th grade to make a point no one was willing to hear all year. It shook my parents , my teachers and the director of our school, Mr. Swaidaan – one of  the greatest Saudis I have ever known. My mother went to the school principal and asked for make up exams. He said, he could not allow it unless the Ministry approved it or Mr. Swaidaan intervened.

When he found out about this, he came to the school and called me. In the principal’s office was the Principal, My parents and Mr. Swaidaan. ” Ali , I know you did this on purpose, why??”.. I stood silent. He asked again, with my mother pinching my arm to speak. I remained silent. He got up. Took me by my arm and said, ” come with me”.. He took me to the school playground. We sat down, just me and him.  ” So, what is it? Why are you so angry Ali?  I know you failed because you are angry. Because you are not stupid. You are not ignorant. You have excellent parents. You have a good family. You are  loved. But you are angry. WHY?”..

I saw in his eyes a sincerity. A real curiosity to understand my mind. To know me. So I spoke. I said this:

Because I don’t like being taught what I am taught. I should do only what I like to do. That way I will learn more and probably even learn what I am avoiding now. I hate exams and the stupid competition. I would rather make something fantastic with my school buddies without having to compete with them. If I got all As and my best friend failed something, would I feel great? NO. I would hate it. And maybe, he would fail. Who decides my failure or success? This A and F, or my performance in life? I have seen that if you have a lot of money, no one cares about your degrees and schools, you are the king no matter what. And I have seen that if you drive a small car and live in a small house, you are no one even if you have a PHD. So, who am I fooling? Myself? Mr. Swaidaan, I will own my business. Even if it is a small shop, it will be MINE. Because I want my time. I want to do things MY WAY, in MY TIME. Why am I forced to do things at THEIR time? Why should I do what the school tells me? Do I pay them, or do they pay me?

Sir, I failed these exams because it made no sense to me to run each morning for them. What real benefit am I getting from this school? I am an artist, I write poems, I like music, I love my piano.. who cares about Newton’s law? Does anyone ask you to define energy? Does anyone ask you why the damn apple fell to the ground?? Makes no sense to me. On top of that, I am constantly told by my parents, aunts and uncles that if I don’t finish school, I will not get to college and if I don’t have a degree, I will not have a job!.. What if I don’t want a job?

I said all this and so much more with tears, suppressed anger and disgust at the way we were forced to study things that we had no interest in. My heart kept saying, it’s a waste of time…

Mr. Swaidaan.. with a big smile on his face.. HUGGED Me. He said, isn’t your father lucky to have you ?? He was overwhelmed. He was shocked at what I had to say. He made a deal with me, and I kept it.

He said, ” Ali, I will get you permission to do all of these exams. You do them and get As and Bs. You know why? Because your Father paid the fee.. you want him to lose that money?”.. no..I said.

” Well, you do them. And, all that you have told me , do not tell your parents or that principal right now.. they will not get it. Don’t tell this to anyone until you , son, are a businessman to reckon with.. and you WILL be. When you drive big cars and run big setups.. and no one asks you the laws of newton.. you tell the WHOLE world how you think and what you think is right. You do everything YOUR way.. and I will be HAPPY to see you do it. I will be proud of you. Because Ali, NO ONE in this world can help you achieve your dreams , ONLY you can with the help of your Allah. Sometimes, you do things and pass exams just to put a smile on your parents’ or loved ones face.. would you be kind enough to do that?”..

NOW, that MADE SENSE!.. I promised him that I will NEVER tell anyone what I think until I am in a position to do so. I did the exams again, got good grades and went on to the 8th grade then finished high school and went to college, got my degree ( means zilch to me).. and I did it all for my parents. While I did this to make them smile, I followed my dream.. and drew, wrote and built business concepts..

Mr. Swaidaan, where ever you are. I wish we could meet now in that playground. You would be proud of that boy who failed 6 courses. I am not the wealthiest businessman in the world nor do I think I have made it big.. but I depend on no one and I can sit here and speak my mind… THANK YOU!

Now, read this from today’s Arab News..

“Local Press: Degrees don’t matter


Published: Jul 3, 2010 00:29 Updated: Jul 3, 2010 00:29

Khaled returned home after completing his higher studies abroad. He was focused on securing a good job back in the Kingdom.

He is now the holder of a master’s degree obtained from one of the universities in the United States after he was sent abroad as part of the king’s scholarship program”. .. read more at

Teach your children to discover their talent and do not force them to be what YOU think is the way to be. Some people may NOT need a degree .. some may.. let them decide their path and you will have a nation that is self-sufficient. Do not limit the human mind to a piece of paper… I don’t.

One thought on “Degrees, Diplomas and Common Sense

  1. Yes, we should teach our children to follow their hearts and it will be making them unique in what they do..

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