Education For The 24th And A Half Century

"To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge." - Socrates

To know nothing...while it is true that learning to question what knowledge you take for granted and admitting that there things you still need to learn are essential to intellectual growth, it also calls into question what our young minds are currently filling their heads with when they attend school. Not only that, but based on our current growth in the information age, it makes me wonder if we should change our educational curriculums to match the current needs of our society...and no, I don't mean adding video games to every class room.

When I was in high school back in the late 90's, I recall taking courses like Chemistry, Biology, Trigonometry, Geometry, Literature, Gym, Health, History, Computers (optional)...looking back, if I had to estimate, I use maybe ten percent of that knowledge today. I bet some, if not most of you, have thought the same thing from time to time. Why are we learning all of this crap when we never use it?

I've always been of the belief that knowledge is power. I still hold true to that belief. I also believe however that schools should reform their curriculum to include the basic things you would need after finishing school. Like what? Glad you asked.

Computers: Most schools offer this already, though not all schools make it mandatory. Most of us use computers every day...why not make it mandatory and throw in courses for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and other popular software we would probably use either at home or in the workplace? How about throwing in a chapter about scanners, faxes, and other machines commonly used in today's world and how to operate them? The options are endless.

Managing Finances: One thing some kids lack after high school is the ability to balance a checkbook. Some don't even know the value of a dollar. I really think kids would benefit from a class that teaches them about banking 101 and how banks operate. When kids are of age to move out on their own, chances are they are not going to have the well-paying job an older adult would have. The adult will have pay raises to reflect their years of experience in their field...the child will not. To someone just starting out, every penny will count, especially in today's society. A chapter or two on 401ks and IRAs wouldn't hurt either. Oh, and for crying out loud...INCLUDE A CHAPTER ON THE DANGERS OF USING CREDIT CARDS!!!

Workplace Etiquette & Basic Career Tips: As adults, you'd think we'd all behave like adults when in a place of business. Turns out no. I can't count how many times I've sighed loudly because someone around me did something office inappropriate. Also, how many students graduating high school know how to conduct themselves in a job interview? How many of them know how to put together a résumé? How many know how to dress for an interview? Why not develop a course to help students prepare for their future? Isn't that what school is all about?

Renting / Owning a Home & Other Bills: This might fall into the category above regarding managing finances, though there is a large difference between knowing how a bank operates and balancing a checkbook as opposed to knowing how to read lease terms and what is expected from you when you rent or own a home. How many students know that they are expected to pay local taxes to their municipality when they start working? Some places of employment automatically deduct that tax and others don't. How many students know what a security deposit is and how it works? How about utilities? How about common safety tips that all renters and homeowners should know?

Driving: I did have a nine week high school course regarding this topic to help prepare for the fun of sharing the road with complete lunatics. However, not all schools do this nor do they cover how insurance works. Most accidents are caused by young, inexperienced drivers that sometimes think that there are no consequences to having a lead foot. Every school nationwide should have a mandated course that MUST be passed in order to graduate high school and to get your license.

I'll be honest, it is really the parents' responsibility to teach their children these things. With that said, I do believe schools could reform their curriculum to include things like the above at the expense of classes most students won't ever need. Unless my son plans to be an engineer, I would rather he take a course on MS Office as opposed to Geometry. I have not once needed Pythagorean's Theorem despite knowing it off by heart. The Quadratic Formula? -b +/- the square root of 4ac all over 2a? Never used it. Move these advanced concepts into college classes to where those wishing to become an engineer or teacher can learn about these things. Move the advanced science courses like chemistry and physics into college course best suited for their respective majors.

Most, if not all kids, go to grade / middle / high school. The law demands it. Not all kids will go to college. Why not design the curriculums to include classes that ALL kids would benefit from? Out of all of the classes I've ever taken, reading, writing, and basic math are the ones I've really benefited from. Ironically, SATs are setup to include only these subjects, at least, they were back in my day. That's like saying, "Yes, we know those other subjects may not benefit you, but we're making you learn about them anyway." Not very efficient in my book.

Maybe some schools actually incorporate my suggested classes above, but definitely not the schools around here. Some Pittsburgh City Schools are a up and you pass. When I attended college at a school I will not name to protect its privacy, no one in my English class knew how to write a three paragraph essay...and these are people who graduated high school. I had my essay done in ten minutes. I got bored with the class so I tested out of it. Needless to say, I made a bit of money from my time there.

All of that aside, I think colleges could stand to lower their tuition rates so that more skilled people can populate our workforce. I don't think putting a price tag on education is right, especially if it's for the improvement of oneself and ultimately mankind. How many potential Beethovens or Einsteins lie in wait for a chance that will never come because they can't afford to go to college? It makes me sad that in order to improve yourself, you have to open your wallet. Luckily there are some free courses out there for low-income citizens...and of course, Wikipedia and YouTube. However, I don't believe that to be enough. Neither do major corporations that seek job applicants, apparently. Most companies won't hire you unless you have that piece of paper, no matter which school you got it from.

As I previously maintained, knowledge is power, but why not mold the distribution of that knowledge so that the most important things are taught to our kids early on while their minds are fresh and bad habits nonexistent? Who might mean the difference between a life of success and a life of crime.

Oh yeah, and if you liked what you read and wouldn't mind, share this article. You'd be as sweet as C6 H12 O6. To drive my above points home, I wasted an entire year in chemistry class just to make that joke...fifteen years later. Yeahhh.