For my teen-age daughter another school year has come and gone. She has officially spent an entire 15 months in school remotely, which is a good twelve months longer than she spent in public online school back in 2017.
I give teachers all the kudos in the world for teaching remotely. It became even more difficult for them when they had to teach both remotely and in person. And my daughter’s teachers did a remarkable job. As did my daughter. Maybe it was the environment she was learning in that helped, but her grades were either the same or slightly better remotely than being in school physically.
With all the changes that occurred this school year, one thing remained constant: the curriculum. I understand the state has certain learning requirements. But for once, especially at the high school level, I’d love to see something taught that students may actually be able to use in the real world one day.
Take biology, for instance. It was a class freshmen had to take. I know it’s great to know the basics about biology, why we get diseases, how body systems function, etc. But is it that important to know all the ins and outs of the body to survive in the world? Is it going to make you a better person? Teach you what to do in looking for your first apartment? How to apply for a job? Biology may be helpful if you’re going on to medical school. But even there you’re bound to take a lot more biology and learn a lot more ins and outs of the body. Maybe teaching them something as simple as knowing when to see a doctor, because I know adults who don’t even know when they should see a doctor about something.
I’ve always found English class to be enjoyable. My daughter not so much. So when she told me they were reading “The Odyssey” and asked why she had to read it, I told her I didn’t know. Because I had to read it once and wondered the same damn thing. So I got thinking “In real life how can we benefit from what happens to Odysseus”? I got nothing.
“Oh my God! My car was stolen!! Shit! What would Odysseus do?”
“Damn! I was just robbed at gunpoint. What would Odysseus do?”
From my memory of the story, and from what my daughter reminded me, he’d probably run away on his boat as fast as he could. Yeah, Odysseus and his gang isn’t going to help anyone in real life.
And after teaching that, the teacher taught about disastrous events for the remaining three months of the year. My daughter got to learn about Chernobyl, which really bothered her, and “War of the Worlds”. Maybe stuff you’d teach in a history class but not something I’d imagine being taught in English.
Environmental Science, if taught correctly, could come in handy with regards to dealing with climate change, but only if someone is there enough to teach it. Which wasn’t exactly the case. And if the work is challenging enough for a high school student. Not something meant for a fifth grader to do.
And then we have good ol’ math. Algebra. Still trying to solve for X after all these years. Linear equations. When do they start teaching kids how to balance a checkbook? Or file taxes? You know, useful every day things. I think my daughter had a few word problems that had to do with percentages. Those may come in handy somewhere in life.