Education By Experience

“What grinds me the most is we’re sending kids out into the world who don’t know how to balance a checkbook, don’t know how to apply for a loan, don’t even know how to properly fill out a job application, but because they know the quadratic formula we consider them prepared for the world.”       ― Chris Colfer, Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal

I absolutely hated school. Many students do and people just accept that, but we really shouldn’t be. We talk about how important school is. It’s needed for most jobs and for any advanced schooling. At one point, I couldn’t help but feel how unimportant school really was.

I’ve been living in, what many call, “the real world” for a couple of years now. I work in retail, own a car, pay bills, and fix things in my house. Out of all of those things, not one of them did I learn from school. My boss is my retail genie, and my dad, too. My mom taught me how to write checks, save money, and open bank accounts. I taught myself how to fix things. I learned to sew when I was young. All other repairs, I just kind of figure out as I go.

The school told me how much I would be using algebra in the real world. I haven’t used any math over the fourth grade level, if that. I’ve only used addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I haven’t used imaginary numbers, or slopes, or the quadratic formula. I wasted my time learning those. Not a whole lot of jobs use those. Especially calculus. Not everyone is going to be a rocket scientist or an engineer.

Instead of teaching stuff that students aren’t going to use, make those courses a choice for students who know they’re going to need them. Make regular math classes ones that teach how to balance check books and how to do taxes. I still don’t know how to do taxes either, but thank goodness I know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

They teach the same history over and over again. Christopher Columbus stealing North America. The trail of tears. United states was technically created in 1776. Martin Luther King Jr. Women’s suffrage. Yes, it’s all extremely important, but I understood it the first five times I learned it. Teach me something else.

The health course I needed was a joke, especially the sexual education. When my sister was in high school, they called nipples “buttons”. They’re teaching abstinence based sex education. Not everyone is going to roll with that. They don’t go deeper into the education. They don’t teach you not to double up on condoms. We need to be learning about STDs, and about different common health problems we may be having– because the internet will always tell you are dying. We need to be taught how to check for cancer. We need to be able to answer the phrase, “Is this normal or do I need a doctor?”

There’s so many things that we need a class on: Drugs, social skills, household work and repair, and so many others. The school system is just so focused on making sure that you know the ‘when two trains are going opposite directions at different speeds and when they will meet’ problem.

School doesn’t test your ability, it tests your memory. Not everyone can memorize things. Some learn by doing. I slept in class a lot because I was seated at a desk. It’s difficult to learn by listening and watching. Let me learn by doing. You want to teach me how to check the oil in a car? Let’s go do it. Don’t just hand me a sheet telling me how to do it. It doesn’t work that way.

I love to learn. Everyday, I educate myself from small useless facts that I was curious about to an entire language because I think it’s important to know. Only a small amount of knowledge that I have learned from school, I actually use in real life. I learned that everyone there was an asshole, and I hated mornings, and I learned how to stand up for myself. I wish I had more information that I could have used from school to apply to real life.

The best way to learn, for many, is by doing.

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