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If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?
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James Comey Away
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Post: #1
If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?

Why doesn't school teach me how to get a job and how to make money? Why doesn't school teach me how to pay bills or taxes? Why doesn't school teach me how to cook? Why doesn't school teach me how to do any of these things that are going to be useful later in my life?

Schools tell you that those things should be "on your own time" even though in my opinion it should be the exact reverse. How the heck does having to write a fictional experience of a Native American or an essay about microbiology going to help me, for example?

I have to be clear though, I have nothing against the history of the Native Americans or microbiology (in fact history in my opinion is extremely valuable). I simply say this because why are we doing things in school which are not necessarily important later in your life instead of learning things that would be far more useful? Jeez, I'd love to learn beforehand how to get a job instead of having to go through the stress that I will have later. Sure, I'll still be stressed, but a lot less stressed, because I actually have a clue what I'm doing!

End rant. I really don't understand why schools don't teach more immediately important stuff first, then teach the rest later. I mean, schools do offer stuff like cooking, etc, but oftentimes it's extracurricular (in my school, at least). We have things like Wikipedia which can teach a lot of stuff, like history, if not better than schools.

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(This post was last modified: 12-01-2013 12:20 PM by James Comey.)
12-01-2013 12:18 PM
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xcriteria Offline
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RE: If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?

This is a common question. I shared this in the School Survival G+ community.

Of the half a million posts here, this is one topic that comes up a lot.

You can look at why in terms of the history of school, or in terms of the present situation.

The question about Native Americans happens to relate to a recent exchange I had with my dad, who spent most of his life teaching anthropology and Native American Studies at the college level.

In his city, a parent challenged one of the required readings for high school students, a novel by Sherman Alexie, depicting the life of some Native Americans. The parent's challenge was based on coarse language and the like, and many people spoke passionately in favor of the book at a hearing about the issue. But nobody debated the question of required readings in general.

One reason for an assignment like that is to teach perspective-taking. But, is that general skill discussed and explored collaboratively, or imposed as a top-down directive to do a particular activity? That's one question to think about.

Another issue here is that people have a limited amount of time... so, what should be squeezed into that time? This is a matter of controversy. Various people have their ideas about what's most important, and what should be "required" vs. not. Interest-based learning is rarely part of that discussion.

Here's a talk by Ken Robinson that hits on this issue of curriculum, and school:



Watch on YouTube

Of note, one issue he hits on is how things like theater and the arts are often considered "impractical" and therefore the first to get cut. This is part of a general question: what's important? What's worth learning? And, related to that, is the question, how much are people capable of learning at a given age, or in a given period of time?

(Obviously, the answer depends on a range of factors, including their interests, personalities, abilities, challenges, the society and economy they'll be trying to navigate, family pressures, and all that.)

And that gets at a key point in terms of "understanding" why school is the way it is: it was created in a very different time in history, and the world is a lot different from what it was even a few decades ago. Even a decade ago, there was no YouTube, no Wikipedia, no major social media networks, and Amazon, Google, and Netflix were in many ways just getting started (they were all started in the 90's, but took a while to become what they are now.) That's a much different world from a few decades back.

The question then becomes, what to do about education, and simply navigating life, in a changing world.

When I bring that topic up with my dad, he tends to emphasize the fact that life today has many similarities to life 200 or more years ago. People faced uncertainty, for example. And there's something to that perspective; life today has things in common with life 2000 years ago. One common denominator: stories.

But, obviously, things have changed in significant ways. In a world full of information, media, and ways to connect, life is different from living on the prarie 200 years ago. Not everyone on the planet has those kind of opportunities, but a growing number do.

So, what does that mean for what to do?

Here are two recent G+ posts to explore that hit on related topics, both from Justin Schwamm, and with comments from me:

Going Through the Motions

"I really needed some inspiration today..."

Any thoughts on all that? What are the next steps in all this, for each of us individually, and overall?

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(This post was last modified: 12-01-2013 04:06 PM by xcriteria.)
12-01-2013 04:05 PM
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brainiac3397 Offline
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Post: #3
RE: If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?

In school I learned to turn common items into weapons. Can never be too prepared for a nuclear holocaust.(No big posts to be expected till I get onto le PC)

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(06-14-2013 08:02 AM)Potato Wrote:  watch the fuq out, we've got an "intellectual" over here.

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12-01-2013 04:35 PM
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James Comey Away
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Post: #4
RE: If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?

Hey xcriteria,

Before I start, I want to make it clear I am not, in any way, trying to undermine some of the subjects that school is teaching, such as Native American history and microbiology. Many people are interested in microbiology, and I'm actually an avid supporter of history in schools (but done right). I love learning history and different cultures.

I agree that even just a decade ago things were just starting up when it came to the digital revolution. There was no YouTube and Wikipedia was just barely starting. There did exist some official encyclopedias (like Encyclopedia Britannica) and some archaic video sharing sites. But nowadays, any student (if they had the desire) could learn any subject he/she wishes to, at their own pace, and in much better detail than in public school. I could learn about, say, the Highland Clearances, or conditions in Latin America during the time of their revolutions, in much more detail than a normal history class.

The question of "what is more important to learn" is an illusive one. The big problem is that schools generalize what is more important. For example, certain courses are mandatory for getting into college. Schools don't care what the student is really interested in, they only care if the student can comply with the standards the school gives them. I believe instead of generalizing, why not focus more on the students themselves, what they care for, what their potential can be used for the best? I think the reason that there are students that get low test scores on English or Math is not because they're dumb, they just don't think the subject is relevant in any way to them, and they're right. It's like putting animals from one country and expecting them to survive in another with a much different climate. How are they going to survive?

Time is another illusive one. The whole concept of summer vacation originally was created because students needed time to help raise crops, and also to help prevent cholera outbreaks as well. We live in a time and age in which most Americans live in urban areas and cholera isn't a problem now as it was centuries ago. Why are we still carrying on the tradition of summer vacation? Why are we still carrying the tradition of rigid schedules (which I believe are byproduct of child labor in factories, which I believe may have had some origins in slavery) of getting up and then going to sleep? We live in a time and age where time really should, and is, more flexible. We're just stuck trying to somehow make old concepts work in modern times. It's best if we just abolish those concepts.

What needs to be done, at least in my opinion, is to eliminate the concept of time from education, and also the concept of generalization. Time only hurts, not helps, and generalization has obviously marginalized many students. Not interested in math or English? Well too bad. We live in a time in which learning can be much faster, yet we choose not to make learning much faster. We still live with the idea that "growing up too fast" is somehow dangerous.

And it really needs to be said that conditions today are also completely different, nonetheless, from the late 1800s. Much of the developed world has long finished the process of industrialization. Companies need people with different skills other than just being able to follow orders. A good question to ask, why are we changing the system for the better? Why are we still clinging on to an education system which is clearly outdated and trying to make it work in modern day?

RIP GWEDIN
RIP URITIYOGI
RIP NIGHT
RIP VONUNOV
RIP WES/THEWAKE
RIP USERNAME

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Stop jerking off to porn and whining and do something about it

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12-01-2013 04:45 PM
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xcriteria Offline
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Post: #5
RE: If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?

Hansgrohe, I think I understand where you're coming from. Here are some related things to consider.

For example, here's one key point of reference I came across a while back:

Why Are You Forcing My Son To Take Chemistry?

That gets into this general tension between what people should know, vs. the disturbing notion (to most on these forums, including me) of forcing things down people's throats. Check out the comments there for some of the various perspectives people have on this "what should people know / what should be taught" question.

(12-01-2013 04:45 PM)Hansgrohe Wrote:  I agree that even just a decade ago things were just starting up when it came to the digital revolution. There was no YouTube and Wikipedia was just barely starting. There did exist some official encyclopedias (like Encyclopedia Britannica) and some archaic video sharing sites.

When I was in junior high, this was the equivalent of Google (or Google Scholar) that my teachers were familiar with:

http://www.google.com/search?q=card+catalogue&tbm=isch

Crazy, eh? Yet even card catalogues are a relatively recent invention, when you consider human history as a whole. Many humans grew up without even the printing press.

(12-01-2013 04:45 PM)Hansgrohe Wrote:  But nowadays, any student (if they had the desire) could learn any subject he/she wishes to, at their own pace, and in much better detail than in public school. I could learn about, say, the Highland Clearances, or conditions in Latin America during the time of their revolutions, in much more detail than a normal history class.

Agreed. The only reason I know what Highland Clearances is, is a video on Youtube I came across, which references that historical event...

Capercaillie - Four Stone Walls

And much of my understanding of Latin American history, beyond other songs, was initiated by a documentary gig I worked on with a friend from there.

But that gives rise to the question of how to jump ahead and learn about things one might not come across by purely personal explorations, interest-based learning, and real life situations.

(12-01-2013 04:45 PM)Hansgrohe Wrote:  The question of "what is more important to learn" is an illusive one. The big problem is that schools generalize what is more important. For example, certain courses are mandatory for getting into college. Schools don't care what the student is really interested in, they only care if the student can comply with the standards the school gives them. I believe instead of generalizing, why not focus more on the students themselves, what they care for, what their potential can be used for the best? I think the reason that there are students that get low test scores on English or Math is not because they're dumb, they just don't think the subject is relevant in any way to them, and they're right. It's like putting animals from one country and expecting them to survive in another with a much different climate. How are they going to survive?

I agree. One question there is how that can happen. This is where teachers could be more effective in the role of mentors, coaches, and consultants than simple lecturers, when lectures and talks can easily be replicated, and explored based on learner interest.

(12-01-2013 04:45 PM)Hansgrohe Wrote:  Time is another illusive one. The whole concept of summer vacation originally was created because students needed time to help raise crops, and also to help prevent cholera outbreaks as well. We live in a time and age in which most Americans live in urban areas and cholera isn't a problem now as it was centuries ago. Why are we still carrying on the tradition of summer vacation? Why are we still carrying the tradition of rigid schedules (which I believe are byproduct of child labor in factories, which I believe may have had some origins in slavery) of getting up and then going to sleep? We live in a time and age where time really should, and is, more flexible. We're just stuck trying to somehow make old concepts work in modern times. It's best if we just abolish those concepts.

I agree with that, as well. Why not do things differently? One question is, what's the proposed alternative?

Consider the tension between that idea that a lot of young people like to do mindless partying, and the idea of top-down regulations, and the idea that many of us embrace, of learner-centric, interest-based learning. What's the ideal form for "education" to take, when many people reject education outright?

I think interest-based learning is a start, but this requires a transformation of how educators in various forms do their work. But there's nothing that says a 16-year old, an 11-year-old, or a 14-year old, or an 88-year-old can't be an "educator."

(And even if there is... why can't that change?)

(12-01-2013 04:45 PM)Hansgrohe Wrote:  What needs to be done, at least in my opinion, is to eliminate the concept of time from education, and also the concept of generalization. Time only hurts, not helps, and generalization has obviously marginalized many students. Not interested in math or English? Well too bad. We live in a time in which learning can be much faster, yet we choose not to make learning much faster. We still live with the idea that "growing up too fast" is somehow dangerous.

Here, I'd suggest that time is an important consideration, as is that tension between individual learning vs. generalization.

The big question is how people look at these two factors.

Both are key themes to explore in more depth.

Time can be used in so many ways. There's so much to say about it. For example, sometimes a Race Against the Clock can be motivating, useful, and exciting... while at other times, long periods of "unstructured time" are the best way to make use of time. And, in general, people do have quite a good bit of time to engage in life, even though even 60-80-100 years can be seen as limited.



Watch on YouTube

(Not that the time allocations there have to be destiny.)

(12-01-2013 04:45 PM)Hansgrohe Wrote:  And it really needs to be said that conditions today are also completely different, nonetheless, from the late 1800s. Much of the developed world has long finished the process of industrialization. Companies need people with different skills other than just being able to follow orders. A good question to ask, why are we changing the system for the better? Why are we still clinging on to an education system which is clearly outdated and trying to make it work in modern day?

That depends on which "we" you're asking about. For many teachers, at least part of their concern is having an income. Can their roles be redefined, while keeping their income? I think so. But that's a challenge in itself.

What do you think?

Peter Gray & allies launching the Alliance for Self-directed Education

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12-01-2013 05:52 PM
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craxyguy562 Offline
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Post: #6
If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?

This thread is mere proof on how bad the school system is.Popcorn

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12-03-2013 07:55 AM
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Zapkido Offline
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RE: If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?



Watch on YouTube

This video that you showed me just made me really melancholy. :/
12-03-2013 11:54 AM
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xcriteria Offline
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RE: If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?

(12-03-2013 11:54 AM)Zapkido Wrote:  This video that you showed me just made me really melancholy. :/

Maybe this will help change things:

I don't think the video is accurate. It asks a good question, but there are a lot more ways to use your jellybeans than the way they put it!

Here are two more inspiring clips, about what you can do with your life and time in a more positive way, from Ken Robinson and David Eagleman:



Watch on YouTube



Watch on YouTube

Do those give you a more positive view of what's possible? Smile

Here's another, longer talk, from Despair, Inc. co-founder EL Kersten. As dark as that site's demotivational posters are, Kersten ends this talk on a more positive note:

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These are all parts I'm thinking of how to adapt into something that might actually be useful. There are so many other pieces as well, but they have to come in some kind of interesting sequence. I'm still trying to figure out what that might be... so any feedback is appreciated.

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12-03-2013 04:13 PM
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RE: If schools are to prepare us for life, why don't they teach us anything useful?

We should have gone to hogwarts express in september :\
12-04-2013 02:45 AM
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