But we just didn't have the money for him to go to college, even with the athletic scholarship he won. And now he didn't have time between jobs to even think about college. (1.81)
Money and time are big obstacles to Darry's education. In this novel, just because you're smart or talented doesn't mean you can get an education.
I'm supposed to be smart; I make good grades and have a high IQ and everything, but I don't use my head. Besides, I like walking. (1.6)
Pony's pointing to a couple of different kinds of intelligence here – academic intelligence and common sense intelligence. He's trying to balance these two as he approaches his personal desires, including the desire to walk home (alone!) and to handle a range of social situations.
Tough and Tuff are two different words. Tough is the same as rough; tuff means cool or sharp […] In our neighborhood both are compliments. (1.57).
Pony is also educating readers about his world, and his lessons include several insights into local slang. If you were writing about your world, are there any special words you'd want readers to know?
"He's a dropout," I said roughly. "Dropout" made me think of some poor dumb-looking hoodlum wandering the streets breaking out lights – it didn't fit my happy-go-lucky brother at all. (2.39)
As it turns out, Soda doesn't like school, but he does like his work at the gas station. He isn't unintelligent, but his intelligence is different from Pony's. And he simply has other goals and interests. If the Curtis parents hadn't died, do you think that Soda would have stayed in school?
"I bet you watch sunsets, too." She was quiet for a minute while I nodded. "I used to watch them, too, before I got so busy…" (3.17)
By sharing her love of sunsets, and recognizing Pony as a sunset-lover too, Cherry's spurring his personal education. Learning to look at connecting factors as well as dividing ones broadens Pony's understanding of the world.
"I never noticed colors or clouds and stuff until you keep reminding me about them. It's almost like they weren't there before." (5.63)
Johnny is getting nature appreciation training from Pony. Becoming aware of the beauty of nature is a major awakening for him. Even though he doesn't live long enough to fully appreciate it, Johnny's expanded vision is reflected in his deathbed letter.
So I started writing names across the paper. Darrel Shaynne Curtis, Jr. Soda Patrick Curtis. Ponyboy Michael Curtis. Then I drew horses all over it. That was going to get a good grade like all git-out. (12.25)
Pony doesn't know it yet, but he's pre-writing – warming up for the serious business. Drawing horses and writing names might seem like a waste of time, but that's probably helping Pony collect his organize his thoughts, and find out where to start.
"Anything you think is important enough to write down. And it isn't a reference theme; I want your own ideas and your own experiences." (12.10)
Ponyboy's teacher does what the best teachers do – he takes Pony's position into account, and personalizes the assignment and instructions with Pony's maximum benefit in mind.
And I decided I could tell people, beginning with my English teacher. (12.71)
By the end of the novel, Pony realizes the he can be an educator too. He can take the things he's learned and share them with others, in the hopes of making the world a better place.