Modern-day schools should teach more life skills, not antiquated knowledge

source url Tom Moore

viagra drug names Contributing Writer

source link As I look back on the failures, successes, wins and pitfalls that is this crazy journey called my life, I think about the biggest challenge I had, which was school. I see the struggle every day: Curious, smart, capable children subjected to the mind-numbing routine of eight hours a day, five days a week. For some children, school is a blast. These are the kids who excel at math, can memorize anything, and are good at recognizing patterns. These kids are labeled “gifted” or “above average.”

source link Then there are the ones of us who are more creative, who like to do things with their hands, are bad at math and prefer things like art and life sciences, and who enjoy writing about biology and history. We are labeled “learning-disabled,” “attention-deficit,” “hyperactive” or “special ed.” But whatever the label is, it boils down to one simple fact: For whatever reason, we fit into the environment of public school about as well as the proverbial “square peg” being forced into the round hole. It may be possible to wiggle, convince, force and coerce it into that hole, but it will never be a comfortable fit. The sad part is there is no need for this farce anymore. There was a time, not too long ago, it was necessary. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, every citizen needed a very specific skill set. These skills needed to be the same across the board: unvarying, unwavering, and totally consistent. These skills were the proverbial “Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick.”  As the Industrial Revolution swept through Europe in the mid-1700s, people became cogs in the giant machine that was industrial “progress.” They kept the machines running, protected the “bosses,” property, and kept the books in order. These workers were very specialized, and their skills reflected that. After they graduated high school, these workers were trained by “the company,” pledged their loyalty to “the company,” and stayed with “the company” for life.

As the Industrial Revolution progressed, and technology became more and more prevalent, the set of skills needed became more complex. Now, in order to run the machines, a much higher level of basic skills were needed, but the basic concept remained the same. Workers needed to be able to read instructions, write reports, and add and figure. These are the factories of our grandfathers and fathers, the industrial age factories and companies. It was this production capacity that gave America the wealthy middle class of the ‘50s and ‘60s. It was this middle class wealth that drove our post-WWII prosperity and catapulted the United States to the status of superpower.

The factory of today looks nothing like the factories of our grandfathers and fathers. The modern factory has only a handful of workers on the floor to operate terminals, check status, and make sure the robots that actually run the factory are running smoothly. These workers don’t work on the line like my grandfather did. Today’s workers operate the machines that run the machines on the factory floor.  However, with the advent of the adding machine, and then the personal computer, the very technology we started building started giving us the ability to shift our paradigm.


Slowly, as these machines became more complex, the human brain didn’t need to have all the right information immediately available anymore. Instead, they simply needed to be able to access that information quickly and efficiently. Why memorize multiplication tables if you have a calculator that can do it in a microsecond? Why memorize spelling words when you have a spellchecker at your fingertips? With the arrival of the smartphone giving us unrestricted access to the internet, there is no need for the rote memorization of complex processes anymore. Our time would be much better spent being taught how to use these devices to access the information we need quickly, efficiently and accurately.

What we should be taught in schools today is not 100-year-old knowledge. What contemporary schools should teach is how to most effectively use this modern technology to access information. Instead of being cogs in the huge machine that was yesterday’s factory, teach today’s students to use the computers of the world to quickly and accurately access the information they need.

Instead of teaching us information so generic that each company has to train us extensively, teach us specific, specialized skills in school. These skills would allow us to have the knowledge to thrive in our day-to-day lives, become productive citizens, and be immediately hirable without needing more company training. By the time we graduate, we already have skills that can be directly applied to the career we choose. This is just one of the things 21st century education needs. One classmate said it best in my Voyager Practicum class: “These are the things we should have learned in high school, if we had not been learning calculus.”

What we need is a system of programs that don’t waste our time on vague generalities and hypothetical theories. What we need is a school system that teaches us day-to-day, viable knowledge and the skills to put this knowledge into practice. These are the skills we can apply to everyday living. Knowledge, like how to get a job or how to build a resume, what employers look for in a candidate and how to manage, increase, and tweak your digital footprint. We should learn how to get, build and use credit responsibly. What does APR and APY really mean. How to get a lease, apply for a mortgage and buy a car.

If you sign up for a $10,000 car loan at 12 percent interest, how much does that car actually cost you over the five-year period? If you buy a $200,000 house at 7 percent APR, on a 30-year mortgage, how many of those years are you paying interest only?  When do you start paying down the principal of the mortgage loan? How do we save for retirement and set aside a modest college fund.

That’s it. That is the extent that 90 percent of the American population will do.  And that can be done with basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These are the skills people like us actually need.  These are the skills we will actually use in our day-to-day life.

As far as jobs go, we need programs in our high schools that partner with local companies to teach us specific skills; skills are custom-tailored to a highly specialized, high paying position a particular industry needs. These are the skills that make us immediately hirable. A perfect example is the Police Academy at George Stone Tech Center. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Department partners with George Stone to train their new officers. Once the officers are trained, they can go right into a job as a Deputy Sheriff.

So, that is the problem and a possible solution. PSC and George Stone offer some viable programs for short-term career training, although not to the extent I am proposing.  I want to bundle the “life skills” into a whole education package. When you graduate from high school, you would know what you need to know, and how to do it.