I want to mention briefly the inadequacy of current standard education systems. We, and I'm using the collective societal 'we' here, teach children some of the most and least relevant things during school and I think it's worth considering what we should be doing instead. Right now the priority of most governments is to recover from the current economic mess and ensure prolonged prosperity and stability for the future, this means that I totally accept that now is not the time for a major upheavel of the education system. However I do think that once the recovery is well on its way, building a school system that produces more functional, well-adjusted graduates and places them into the world of work successfully, will aid both the financial recovery and the repair of the damaged social state.
Secondary schools teach students everything from a comprehensive description of basic scientific principles to the higher forms of mathematics, such as differentiation, that only the upper echelon of theoretical mathematicians really need to be aware of. It seems to me that a far better idea for the time spent at school would be to have functional lessons based on life and the current society. I can best summarise my ideas through just a few examples:
English - These lessons are filled with terrible poetry, useless assignments and the utterly insane notion that 13 yr olds can understand shakespeare (it's hard enough to appreciate reading the manuscript of a play that deserves to be on the stage even for seasoned scholars.) Wouldn't it be better if grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary, including the theory of word choice, were taught instead. Most people disregard the rubbish they read in english lessons now but I think simple useful lessons like the correct way to pronounce the letter 'H' would be better for all of us. It's all too often that people happily call it a 'haitch' instead of an 'aitch' which is, at least, correct.
Resistant Materials - This is the modern day equivalent of woodwork. Given the readily available cheap furniture you can find pretty much anywhere these days I hardly think carpentry (or the repeated construction of excessively elaborate unfinished wooden desk tidys as I like to call it) is of use in our schools in this day and age. I do think certain 'change-a-fuse' style skills should be taught across the board, same goes for cooking, cleaning and basic sewing. Surely it's obvious that anybody would benefit from being able to put together a fantastic pasta sauce, successfully scrub and maintain a working toilet and fix a pair of socks.
Art - I think art is one of the most worthy endeavours that somebody can busy themselves with, so I do consider this an important lesson. My art lessons at school though were spent sat around listening to soft jazz and drawing still life pictures of fruit and trainers over and over again. There was no explanation of how art functions in society or that other forms of art exists like sculptures, musicals or installations even. This lesson should be about very personally finding out which creative outlet best suits the student, to help inspire and inform them in that field. Pencil sketching an apple a thousand times over doesn't really qualify as worthy education, just an hour off for the teachers.
Physical Education - Otherwise known as the main area of life that all the illiterate bullies, teachers included, are celebrated for their prowess in humiliating the non sporty students. This is not education, having this on the roster as an educational experience is akin to having lessons on how to chew food or how to not slam your own head repeatedly into the nearest shiny object until brain matter seeps from your ears, which I actually think many of the stars of P.E. would benefit from. You may have guessed already which end of spectrum I found myself on at school. I hated sports and I hated being freezing cold in tiny shorts while being patronised by a teacher that was so underqualified he may aswell have been a student among the slightly dim children, nobody would've noticed. The responsibility to keep a child alive, healthy, fed and exercised is on the parents, not the schools. Besides, I am perfectly healthily now, I eat three hearty and well-balanced meals a day, I get all the exercise I need and none of it is due to my P.E. lessons at school. This lesson should be altogether replaced with a lesson teaching the basic skills of how to learn, how to budget, how to pay bills etc. All of the abilities needed to run an intelligent and sensible life which is what we should all aim for.
I think this is enough to give you a general idea of what I mean. The majority of it involves shifting the focus away from heavily specialised material that students can get into later in the optional part of the schooling system, and from useless time-filling banality and shifting it towards the intellectual and reasonably functional. I've spent plenty of time analysing my time at school and the simplest conclusion is, sadly, that it gave me nothing at all except for a slightly unhealthy disdain for any and all matters of social importance (or non-importance for that matter). I quickly settled into trying to improve my mind on my own terms and I equally quickly came to the realisation that being sociable and making pseudo-friends would do nothing to push me in my intended direction. In short school made me want to study alone, to get away from school, collective entities and people in general.
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