Often I read things or come across things that I did not learn in school. I think part of why I come across these things so often is because I am constantly reading as well as traveling to new places or visiting sites I have not been to before. Generally speaking, my first thought when encountering this new information or seeing a new place is “Wow! How cool is that?!?!” or “I didn’t know that!”
However, I often see people lamenting that they “didn’t learn that in school” or “How come they don’t teach ______ in school?”
There is just so much as far as information and skills that teachers have to teach that there is absolutely no possible way whatsoever that teachers/schools can teach everything. All schools have to make choices about what to include in their curriculums, standards, and/or objectives to teach and, conversely, what not to include. For example, as a history teacher, there is no way any history teacher or group of history teachers can ever hope to teach the students in their classes about all of history! I mean, seriously! Let’s think about it…First of all, history includes not just European or US history, but the history of all the other regions of the Earth (Asia, Africa, South/Central America, Australia, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, etc.). Then, you have the various countries within each of those continents or regions, plus the smaller history of the various ethnic groups that live within the borders of those countries. We don’t even teach all of US history. How many of you have ever heard of the Punitive Expedition that the US took against Pancho Villa? We don’t teach that because it’s not a MAJOR event in history. How many know about the Mexican Revolution in the early twentieth century and all the various factions that were vying for power? How many know about the dynasties of China? Tibetan history? The history of any country or people in Africa? (Don’t get me wrong…there are definitely things I don’t know, either!) And that’s just one subject.
There are things that schools just don’t have the time to teach. Most states require that students are in school for 180 days per school year and a school day is typically 6.5 hours. So, that works out to be 1170 hours, if each of those days was a full day. We know that there are many half-days so let’s trim it down a bit to a nice round number of 1100 hours. Within those hours, schools also have things like field trips, assemblies, track and field days, and all sorts of other special things that happen which take away those hours from the classroom teachers, and that doesn’t take into account the hours involved in all of the testing that we are now requiring of the students and teachers.
So, given that, how can we possibly add anything to what we are currently teaching? (Some of this goes to the arguments of getting rid of all the testing, allowing the teachers and other education professionals make the decisions, etc.) One of the current issues in the elementary schools is the removal of cursive writing, simply because they don’t have time to teach it with all that other stuff. (I have mixed feelings about that one)
Things like balancing a checkbook, budgeting, how to fill out forms, how to address an envelope (and where to put a stamp!) and other sorts of things like that just can’t be added to all the other things schools and teachers are doing. Or table manners/etiquette, table settings, appropriate attire for various venues or types of events (i.e., what you wear to a job interview is different than what you would wear to a music concert, church, etc.), grooming? (Thanks, Mr. James, for these!) Or navigating the public transportation system in any large city (especially if you didn’t grow up in a city), camping/survival skills, gun safety/shooting, strong work ethic? (Thanks, Robin!)
Now that I am a parent and former teacher, I realize the limitations of the public education system (as if I didn’t know that before) and that there are just some things that my husband and I (and extended family) will have to teach E at home. This means we will also have to prioritize what we really think is important versus the things that could be left til later or that maybe we don’t spend as much time on as others. Hmm….that sounds like exactly the choices that the public schools have to make. Ultimately this comes down to what we think the job of the public schools is.