60 second ideas (blog 12)

Teaching What Matters

We learn a lot of material in school. But do we learn the right material? Students leave high school or college unsure how to balance a checkbook. What’s that thing called a credit score? What do I do when I want to buy a house? How does that whole thing work? But I did learn an awful lot about the Pythagorean Theorem…

Education in America has been a hot button issue for years. And yet, even the schools that are considered to be high performing struggle to prepare students for real-life, practical scenarios. Throughout my schooling, I have often found myself in courses where I wonder to myself, “When will I ever use this material again”? Now I’m not saying that we should abolish history and science and mathematics. Of course, these are essential for a well-rounded education. But at some point shouldn’t courses be more about teaching students to be prepared for practical life skills, like managing finances and accounting? Don’t these serve more of a purpose than a course on Ancient Europe or high level mathematics?

Now, I realize those last few sentences could get me in trouble, so let me clarify. Of course learning about Ancient Europe is important–those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And how could we live in the technological world we do without students excelling in high level mathematics? But these courses should not be forced on the majority. If a student is proficient in math and plans on studying it further in college, then by all means take calculus. But if you’re just an average Joe, wouldn’t that course on balancing a checkbook and managing finances be more useful? What about an EMT type class where students learn first aid techniques? Or even something like teaching students how to be more handy and make repairs in their homes?

The education debate isn’t going to end any time soon, and you could ask any sociology or education professor at Bucknell and they would be happy to share their two cents. Just wanted to provide mine…

Here is a discussion on a forum at TED’s website on the issue.

7 thoughts on “Teaching What Matters

  1. Couldn’t agree more with your blog post, it initially was what I was going to write on. I always wonder why we are taught some of the things we are and even at 21 I have never been taught how to fill out a simple tax form. It does seem quite backwards at times.

  2. I completely agree with your post. I always wonder the same thing in some of my classes of whether or not I will use this information again. I think students especially college students who are soon going to be living on their own to learn some of the everyday skills they will need to know to get through life.

  3. I think this is a great idea. Even just living in a house off-campus for a semester has made me realize all of the practical skills I have yet to learn. I think students would feel much more confident going into the real world after graduation if we could take classes like the ones you mentioned.

  4. I agree with Jackie. I was just talking to my friends today about how living off-campus is preparing us so well for the real world. I think you bring up some great ideas for potential classes that can teach you skills for the real world.

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