Why do we have to learn useless things in school? Way back in the day, most kids weren’t expected to graduate high school or to become white collar workers. Furthering one’s education was a niche thing. Schools identified which students made the top percentile and put them on a good track for college, to be a doctor or lawyer. I’m not sure about the history of how certain subjects and coursework got put into the school curriculum, and I’m not sure how it is related to the old ways of not expecting everyone to graduate, but along the way someone decided to teach us a general coursework featuring everything expect practical skills. When in doubt, blame the teachers union or the federal government’s bureaucracy. Yeah, I know my preface doesn’t make any sense, so let’s get on with it- here are some useless things I was taught in school:
That whole Mayflower and pilgrims mythology and the American Revolution motivation. Spanish colonization (the first European settlers) is an AP or IB course in High School. Elementary schools truly do kids a disservice by romanticizing and grouping time periods with Christopher Columbus and the English settlers. America’s prehistory is very complicated and very Spanish, so most kids get conditioned to learn the dumb myths about Native Americans and Thanksgiving all the way up the fake reasons why the colonists rebelled against the England. Even in my advanced IB courses, they didn’t tell me that the Constitution was written by rich capitalistic white men who simply wanted to control the masses for themselves. I had to listen to George Carlin for that real tidbit.
Memorizing the Periodic Table of Elements. Yes, I had to memorize all of the elements and their atomic weights. Why?
The quadratic equation.’nuff said.
Euclidean geometry. Not even based on real life. NEWSFLASH: Albert Einstein showed that the true geometry of spacetime is non-Euclidean.
Dinosaurs. OVER-RATED! Clap-clap-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!
Shakespeare. No one can truly give me an legit answer to the question: Why do we have to learn Shakespeare in school? There are bunch of apologist’s answers, but they are truly weak.
Literature. It’s bad enough a student has seven subjects with homework assignments, yet the English teacher will assign to read 70 pages of ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo…by tomorrow. Seriously, why are so many classic books so boring and dated? No wonder the urban youth has no interest in hanging around to graduate.
Handwriting and spelling. Technically made obsolete with WordPerfect 1.0. Just sayin’. Let’s not forget about the crazy rules for cursive handwriting. Every generation of students realizes that doctors have bad handwriting.
Roman Numerals. Only practical use? Super Bowls and WrestleManias.
Obscure vocabulary words. Schools start a tradition of forcing kids to memorize truly archaic and hardly used vocabulary words, which goes all the way up to the SAT. The students will cram, take the exam, and throw out the vocabulary words from their minds simply because the words are not enforced in any of the content or readings in class OR their by friends. But they are great for writing your college “thesis”. It also increases your chances of publishing a college-level text book for Oxford University Press- just use the thesaurus and choose words no one knows and people will think you’re smart.
Historical Dates. There always has been a skewed bias towards memorizing dates over the meaning of the event, or how the citizens were affected by the event.
Memorizing and singing songs. Even in HIGH SCHOOL. IN SPANISH, TOO! WHY?
Long Division…by hand. I can understand banning a calculator early on so students can learn the basics of arithmetic and mathematics. But please tell me when you break out the old pencil in real life and perform long division as an adult.
Poetry. Including metrical patterns, rhyme, alliteration, assonance, consonance, and iambic tetrameter. Poetry should be an elective class for aspiring creative writers or musicians.
Don’t start a sentence with the words “but” or “because”. But it sounds so realistic. Why can’t we? Because it’s just not proper.
Pythagorean theorem. Architects and aerospace engineers allegedly use this in real life, although I am 99% they break out a computer program and not a pencil. Anyway, it’s yet another formula that should not be taught to general students; it’s a specialized bit of information.
Physics. Totally theoretically dude.
Types of rocks. …
The different types of clouds. It’s trivia, and you know it. Is there any difference between memorizing this stuff than memorizing your favorite sports team’s historical rosters?
Organic Chemistry. Because we all have “mole problems” in real life.
Train A leaves New York at 2:30pm traveling at 70 mph while train B leaves Los Angeles at 5 pm traveling 60 mph. This is a good tease. On the surface it seems like we would need to know something like when the two trains intersect, but we never do in real life, unless your name is Jack Baurer from 24.
Spanish (or French). You still can’t pass off as a native speaker…trust me.
Library. Dewey Decimal System and Card Catalogs. Talk about being OBSOLETE.
DODGEBALL. Worst. Gym. “Sport”. Ever.
Indoctrination. The two party political system and capitalism are good; everything else is bad. The U.S. education system does a great job to enforce these two concepts. CIA operations are not discussed. Manifest destiny is true. All American black marks are swept under the rug. Our Republic and capitalism is the best. All natives are inferior species of human.
Art. Ouch. I know, that’s a low blow to all the art teachers that are reading this. No offense. Just sayin’ I really wish you could have taught me how to freakin’ DRAW instead of lecturing me about the HISTORY of art!
European History and Cultural Bias. The Roman Empire and The Renaissance get all the hype; you’d think that nothing was going on in India, China, Africa, or the Middle East. Also it’s amazing how Greek mythology is taught so many times yet Norse, Oriental, and Middle Eastern (perhaps the most important due to its basis for The Bible) don’t even get mentioned. Generally speaking, Eastern philosophies and native philosophies are much more practical and spiritual. I mean, think about it, in the West all of our thinking comes from the Greeks and Romans, and we get our love of gold, slavery, punishment, and imperialism from such European cultures like the English, Spanish, and Germans.
Roy G. Biv. The colors of the spectrum. So…when else is “Indigo” mentioned in real life? You’d think we would have learned the answer to the question “Why is the sky blue?” instead of memorizing Roy G. Biv. Plus I don’t even know anyone with the last name of Biv in real life.
BASIC computer language. HELLO, WORLD!
Here’s a short list of things they don’t teach you in school:
Practical internet. Elementary and middle schools in 2011 don’t even teach students how to use Google and Wikipedia. Even hear of Khan’s Academy? Guess schools feel threatened that all of the answers are online, and want to keep the kids on their intranet instead of the internet for legal reasons.
How to socialize. Imagine if they taught you how to ask a girl out at school or even how to network? Relationship advice anyone?
Practical economics. You know, like balancing a checkbook, reading an invoice, paying the mortgage, and credit card interest. And it seems that classes like to play the stock market game, but not discuss or stress the importance of IRAs and 401 (K)s or property values.
Scams. Would be great if schools taught students how to avoid being taken advantage of, and seeing through misleading advertisements and unsafe situations. Include spam, malware, adware, and viruses, too.
Start your own business. I guess since starting your own business is your secret ticket OUT of the years of the college system (Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Turner, Henry Ford, Karl Rove, and millions of others did not graduate college and still were able to do well in life) schools don’t really want to wise up kids on that secret. I know several of my former classmates that are actually still in the college and educational system- even in their 30′s.
Marketing. Amazing how marketing is considered a specialized subject and gets reserved for college.
Fixing stuff. You know…stuff breaks at home. Cars don’t run. The toilet won’t flush. The roof is leaking. Why do the failing or problem students take those “shop” or “home ec” classes when everyone needs them?
Career paths and college choices. Why is a guidance counselor optional?
Grey. Schools make push black and white facts. The text book’s voice knows EVERYTHING and leaves nothing for debate or interpretation. That’s why I believe students should be forced to take a Theory of Knowledge course in High School, to ask WHY to everything and not accept random useless facts.
Death. How to deal with aging, sickness, and death? Buddha discovered that thousands of years ago…too bad it hasn’t trickled into our educational system yet.
How to be a mom and dad. Seriously. Because it seems no one gets it yet.
Street smarts. Imagine if there was a legit “Common Sense” school course.
Real everyday computing. Setting up a router…installing an operating system…using all of the features of e-mail…setting up an internet browser to clean out cookies, etc.
Why is the sky blue? Anyone?
Law. A basic class in “Is it legal to…” or “how much trouble can you get if you….” would be have been great.
Just to be clear- I am not advocating that school sucks or that the American educational system is worthless. I am advocating that more practical knowledge and skills ought to betaught. I think that students should be taught the basics of the language, social studies, geography, history, science, reading comprehension, and other fundamentals, and inject them with some real life common sense skills. Depending on their aptitudes and interests, they could take the higher specialized courses that they like. I do not believe all students need to take Algebra or Chemistry. Reason? Most kids hate school because they are taught boring, useless things which kill their enthusiasm to learn and to respect authority.
I do understand that there is a need for qualified workers in the tech fields, and that Americans are becoming less and less qualified for super high tech jobs. I’m not saying to ignore math and science, but to create an environment where those who want those jobs can have them. There should be different educational tracks based on aptitude and desire.
I also realize that if we as students retained all of the knowledge we picked up in school, we’d be Jeopardy Champions and perhaps good teachers or professors…but not that much else that I could think of immediately. Yes, I have heard that the decline of the slide rule has led to the decline of America as a superpower, but the people that say that are grumpy old men that have problems remembering what the right mouse button does.
Nor am I saying that the problems of American stupidity comes from the curriculum. The issues are much bigger than that. Just sayin’ that most students go through hell to memorize things that are truly useless instead of learning practical things that matter in real life.