Things they ought to teach in school

10 03 2012

I think school up through highschool is 90% useless.  In Kindergarden the actual things learned in school are 100% useless, and every year you get a little more useful knowledge until only 90% is useless senior year of high school.  I probably remember 1% of what I learned all from K through 12, not including very basic things like how to read and what a shape is, in which I would say it’s in the 2 to 25 percent range.

Schools seem to focus a large amount of time on stuff that doesn’t matter, especially with the advent of wikipedia, calculators, etc.  I originally thought this might not make an interesting topic, but reading Seth Godin’s recent manifesto on education showed me that it concerns others as well.

As a point of interest, let’s look at some of the subjects I took in high school, noting that I had an over 4.0 GPA cumulative.

  • History: Don’t remember anything.  Maybe a few odd facts here and there, but I’ve learned much more watching Band of Brothers.
  • English: Some unpolished skills in writing, read a few books that I don’t remember, maybe 2 or 3 that I do remember.  All the reading I actually care about was performed outside of class.  There was 1 book I found interesting in HS, and that was The Beach.  Recently I reread “To Kill A Mockingbird” and it had new depth, and in undergrad I reread “Things Fall Apart” and enjoyed it much more.  I don’t know any terms such as “subjunctive” or “preposition”.
  • Spanish: Don’t remember anything except, donde esta el baño?
  • Chemistry:  Took 2 years of chem and TA’ed for my favorite teacher, I remember maybe 20%, because  I was just good at it and it just made sense.  The most useful thing I learned in chemistry was dealing with units, which was a lifesaver in undergrad getting my ME degree.
  • Physics: Don’t remember anything.  What little I did learn was taught at a higher level in undergrad.
  • Biology: Don’t remember anything.  Well, I remember putting a white rose in colored water can change its color and that once I pulled the chair out from behind a girl.
  • Math: I subconsciously a lot of math that I learned in HS, but it would be hard for me to pull it out.  If you give me a problem from HS I can probably solve it, but going mostly on instinct, I don’t actually “remember” most of what I learned.  However, it was useful in undergrad when it was still relatively fresh.
  • Economics: I took this class non AP because I didn’t want to wake up for zero period.  The only thing I remember learning is what an opportunity cost is.  Something that should be taught much earlier IMO.
Note: this is a little exaggerated, if hard pressed I could probably remember a bit of the things I learned in these classes.

In other words, four years of my life studying hard to get into a good college and I didn’t learn jack diddly in the long run.  I wish I had learned much much more, and am saddened to think that for the majority of the population that’s all the education they’re giong to get.  Why not teach something useful?  Here are some of the things I think they ought teach.  Things everybody (or near enough) should know:

  • Personal finance (thanks to my friends for reminding me to put this here).  If you want to learn a bit, here’s my most recommended book: I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi.
  • Why you shouldn’t dig yourself into a pile of debt.
  • How to do your taxes, how to use tax breaks, why a flat tax is not “simpler” than a graduated tax.
  • How to not be a dick (picture).  I could use this class, and I know that most Americans could also (no offense).
  • Drivers Education.
  • How to deal with your problems.  Emotional, dealing with other people, how to use google to answer questions, etc.
  • How to deal with other people.
  • Natural networking.
  • How to find a job.
  • The differecnce between how poor people and rich people look at money.
  • How to cook.
  • Different exercises used by different sports for different reasons.
  • How to ask doctors questions.
  • How to not be embarrassed.
  • How to raise kids that aren’t dillweeds, sissies, and/or screaming little monsters.
  • etc.

What’s the point of being able to name all the Presidents of the US of A in order if you can’t cook yourself a meal?  What’s the point of knowing the quadratic equation if you can’t balance a checkbook?  What’s the point of knowing the themes and symbolism in “Romeo & Juliet” if you can’t deal with your emotional problems?


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One response

10 03 2012
starving marving

I learned how to make scribbles words in kindergarten so I’d say it wasn’t 100pcnt useless

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