I did badly in the Leaving. And look how awesome I am now

Semi-celebs love to reveal their poor results – and brag about their achievements since

In the long run, nobody is judged by their ability to memorise the lakes of Patagonia.

In the long run, nobody is judged by their ability to memorise the lakes of Patagonia.

 

Don’t worry. I did badly in my Leaving Certificate and now I’m writing columns in a national newspaper about social-media ephemera. Did you fail maths? You can still be as awesome as me.

The young Albert Einstein regularly got his head stuck in a bucket. Winston Churchill couldn’t walk until he was 22. They both did all right. Just write any old baloney in your essay about the Council of Trent. With a bit of luck, and some charm, you too will secure a career in the media.

It’s that time of year again. Once again this nation’s obsession with the Leaving Certificate is being worked through in articles such as the one you’re reading. The home-economics paper will be analysed with a rigour that few publications bring to reviews of the season’s Don DeLillo novel. The inexplicable exclusion of Sylvia Plath from the English paper will dominate conversation on the Clontarf omnibus.

No other country does this.

Media types have long enjoyed reassuring students that poor results do not guarantee failure. They may also point out that, in the long run, nobody is judged by their ability to memorise the lakes of Patagonia.

These messages have reached epidemic proportions in the social-media age. This DJ has recovered from academic embarrassments in the mid-1990s to anchor the morning show on Humblebrag FM. This star of reality television never looked back after failing to remember the French word for deckchair.

Let us be clear. The gist of these messages is sound. A poor performance in the Leaving Certificate dooms nobody to underachievement. Similarly, many bright sparks have, after securing all available points, failed to become demigods of their generation.

It is true that this dusty, old-fashioned exam, which values rote learning over ingenuity, remains a poor indicator of practical intelligence. The Leaving Certificate offers an accurate measure of your ability to succeed at the Leaving Certificate. Few other conclusions can be drawn.

All this is worth saying. But something else seems to be going on with the continuing fad for disingenuous reassuring messages. There may be genuine concern here. But the main purpose is to brag about one’s own supposed achievements.

I shan’t name and shame, but my favourite example, posted on Twitter last year, found the author – of whom you have almost certainly not heard – waffling about the many famous people who thought his work was brilliant. Yet teachers had poured scorn on his abilities at school.

The system was screwed. Keep hope alive. With some effort you too could be as successful as Nobert B Blogperson. (Names have been changed to protect the self-aggrandising.)

This part of the process is not unique to Ireland. When the A-level results are released a great many well-connected British journalists dare to publish articles boasting about how, with no real qualifications, they rose to become restaurant critics or society columnists.

Many well-connected British journalists dare to publish articles boasting about how, with no real qualifications, they rose to become restaurant critics or society columnists

Yes, family money may have allowed them to work as an unpaid intern with Shootin’ Monthly for a year. True, they are the first cousins of Lord Bufton Tufton. But it was their inner well of personality that really made the difference. The fact that the privileged fare better after failing exams is a minor detail that need not delay us as we race to catch the train for Ascot.

The good news is that the fad has become so common that Twitter and Facebook are, every year, now awash with parodies of the faux-supportive humblebrag. “leaving cert means nothing,” Canada Lev writes. “I got 260 points and am now the CEO of Microsoft. take advice from me, a twitter stranger trying to get RTs”

I denounce your substandard punctuation, Lev, but I endorse the sentiment.

“Why stress about the Leaving Cert?” Names Joone added. “I did shocking in mine and look at me now, I sell tickets for a nightclub to drunk students.”

You too can be in the club.

There may, however, be a genuine downside to this. It is possible that Leaving Certificate students may take this puffery seriously and lessen their efforts. Whatever DJ Boffo says, you are better off with good results than awful ones. Neither Churchill nor Einstein did so badly at school as the legends claim.

Could the media Pied Pipers be leading our young people into the rushing tide of underachievement?

Forget about it. Nobody under the age of 25 is paying the slightest attention to what they are saying. Kids don’t follow these people. Kids don’t use Twitter much.

None of this matters, of course. The tweets, posts and think pieces aren’t really meant for their supposed targets. They exist to remind contemporaries of the author’s many triumphs.

Oh, and I actually did quite well in my Leaving Cert.

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