When I’m at work and I need ready access to something I’m not sure of, I open an instruction manual, watch a YouTube video, or Google it. No one is expected to know everything about everything, although I have met quite a few doctors and stay-at-home-moms who certainly think they do. In work and in life, we are expected to do a little research to clarify life’s grey areas. So why don’t we teach that in schools? Honestly, unless you can see Russia from your back yard, will not knowing that Juneau is the capital of Alaska really make or break anyone’s career? Who really cares that you cannot write the number zero in Roman numerals? And with the constantly shifting alignment of nations and treaties, does it really matter who North Korea’s ally was in the Korean War?
We flood our childrens’ minds with so much useless information they will never find the need to access again. Their minds are moving at a million miles a minute (which means that in a single minute, his or her mind would travel one million miles — figuratively, of course), and our school system mistakenly attempts to mold them into twentieth-century factory workers in a much maligned world. At first I thought Common Core was a good idea. I thought opponents hated it because it made parents feel stupid. But now that I’ve thought about it, it’s merely a consolidation of the same old mindless data taught by the same old broken system. We do need a common core, but the whole shebang needs to be re-engineered first.
A hundred years ago, libraries were scarce and knowledge was difficult to come by. If you didn’t store something upstairs while you were young, chances are you’d never know it. But, if you think about it, there was much less to learn. With all of humanity’s wonderful and exponentially expanding discoveries, it’s impossible to tailor-fit a single mode of education that fits all. We as a society need to become better at finding a student’s aptitude, and then customize a program that embraces their potential and promotes success.
But nothing will change quickly. Nothing important ever does. There are two primary reasons why this occurs.
If you’ve ever wondered why necessary and fundamental change is slow, especially (and ironically) within socialized government programs, look no further than capitalism. Why? Because there are a whole lot of people making a whole lot of money with the system operating at its status quo. Think textbook makers, lunch providers, equipment vendors, colleges, certification and testing companies, builders, carpenters, utilities, and so on. Education is big business. While educators preach the need to memorize useless state capitals and now irrelevant historical facts, the same education you and I received and were tested on, we have been meticulously blindsided by a society engineered largely by campaign contributions from organizations who operate not necessarily for the common good, but more for their own self interests. While you were busy memorizing Pi to the fortieth place, society changed right underneath your nose. We were trained to be asleep at the wheel, folks. I was there too.
Secondly, and I say this with all due respect for teachers who are genuinely interested in teaching, many of your peers are downright lazy. I met with an algebra 2 teacher about a week ago. During our twenty minute meeting, she spent ten minutes reminiscing about her glory days in North Carolina, and the remainder showing her blatant disgust towards the district mathematics department for changing the outdated textbook. I was there to discuss the poor progress of my A student daughter, who currently has a D in her class, yet all this teacher seemed interested in doing was using the new text as an excuse. Before I left, I asked her if she might be attempting to sabotage the district’s decision in implementing a new textbook. She did not acknowledge my question. I have not challenged her… yet.
What we need to do is stop filling their young and growing minds with irrelevant information from the last century. If you really want to know about John Smith, Pocahontas, and their relationship that would now be considered statutory rape, you’ll gain as much truth from a Disney cartoon as you would from a history book. If you’re tasked with a project that somehow involves deciphering the genetic code of a grasshopper or you need to explain why your boss may be a syrabite, pull up a web browser and look it up. And if you need to know anything at all about Alaska, simply call John McCain’s office.