You should always be wary of an article that begins with a disclaimer (think of it as analogous to starting a conversation with “no offence, but…”–a tactless effort to be thoughtful or PC). Unfortunately, this is one of those articles. Proceed with caution.
Disclaimer: I have, in fact, visited rustic, destitute corners of the world. Frankly, if I were to go to school in a village in YunNan, China, I’d be more concerned with hygiene and malnutrition than numbers and letters. Trudging along their corridors and walking in their shoes, I am overwhelmingly grateful to receive the education that I am able to — Pythagorean Theorem and all. However, despite America’s education system’s exceptionality in the relative sense, it is sorely lacking in other aspects. Below I have congregated those “other aspects” into three separate spheres of learning. In order for students to become informed, immersed and productive citizens of the world, all three need to be wisely and earnestly implemented.
It’s unsettling to think this (and embarrassing to admit), but if someone walking past were to collapse to the ground in sudden heart failure, I would probably freeze in shock…and shameful incompetence. Lack of knowledge in this case could be conducive to death, and nobody in their right minds would want to take that risk and be a bystander.
To remedy this, schools should provide pupils with an extensive, non-optional course that teaches us how to manage medical emergencies — training us basic first-aid and equipping us with the competence and qualification to face all urgent situations we are presented with.
2) Finances and “How to Be An Adult”
Filling out tax forms, opening checking accounts, paying mortgage loans for your property, etc. Unlike in video games, these skills aren’t just simply “acquired” by people as they level up from teenagedom to adulthood. There’s no magic potion or mythical fruit that boosts your responsibility…but a couple classes in high school might do the trick! Although financial literacy isn’t necessarily something that can be easily taught, it is important to at least get students familiarized with the basics, a.k.a. “21st Century Survival Skills”. Again, it’s a simple solution to a big problem. Students stepping out of their schoolyards for good should be as prepared for what awaits them in the world outside.
3) Current Events and Culture
Now this one is slightly more abstract. I believe that high schools in the United States should start offering “current events” discussion classes. We take social studies to be mindful of not silencing the past, but isn’t the present equally as important?
Despite the abundance of news and media outlets in existence today, we are just as ignorant as ever. And I don’t mean to generalize: I’m sure there are plenty of Pinewood students who regularly read the news–but there are just as many of us who are astonishingly oblivious. It’s easy to just disregard everything happening outside the sheltering, secluded gates of Pinewood, and it’s easy to classify everything outside of the United States as “other.”
The whole world is aboard a ship swiftly sailing into the future, and as we’re often told, teens like us will soon be taking on various roles and duties necessary to control the vessel. As globalization has morphed from being theoretical to an established reality, we can no longer afford being insensitive to other cultures. We need to learn what is going on in the rest of the world, how to help if help is needed and how to give respect where it is due.
Finally, I am aware that I am discussing the topic of education from an impossible position of privilege. I spend the majority of my waking life sitting in carpeted classrooms, listening to a well-versed, certified educator lecture not only from books but from their minds and hearts.
And I am certain that observing triangles and their corresponding theorems will come in handy one day in the future. So I’m not bashing schools or even the curriculum–not at all. I’m just saying the in the midst of our new era, we need schools to start teaching more than what’s on standardized tests–we need to learn how to pass the test of life.