From the time we’re young and all the way up through university, we waste A LOT of time in school. The curriculums are stuck from decades of stagnation and really need to change if we want to give kids a fighting chance in this world. Part of the reason that universities have such bad job outcomes is they have to waste time teaching basic subjects after kids weren’t exposed to these learnings earlier in their education (although honestly, a lot just repeat the same nonsense). Here’s our list of the dumbest things we were required to learn and then what we would replace it with…
1 – Cursive handwriting.
Sorry but it’s just outdated. Nobody is going to write with it again. Soon the keyboard will be obsolete as well (as voice recognition, AI, and virtual reality become the norm). While printing is still valuable, cursive is fully useless. Teaching kids to learn cursive is like making Latin mandatory.
What we should teach instead? Beginner programming. This is the writing style that will be most applicable to every student’s life. When roughly half of jobs will require advanced technical proficiency, it’s never too young to get started with basic concepts and logic. We’d advise starting it in primary school and making it mandatory every year through high school graduation. Imagine how powerful that would be for education outcomes!
2 – Shakespeare.
Reading one Shakespeare book is fine, as he was an influential author and playwright. However, in many education curriculums, you’re required to read 1-2 every year. That adds up to a lot of wasted time. First of all, there are plenty of other great authors. Second, most kids don’t like reading an author that uses outdated language patterns. Literary enthusiasts might enjoy it but the average person does not. So you’re actually driving the average person away from reading. This one is a waste of time at best (as it serves no greater purpose) and counter-productive to creating enthusiastic learners at worst.
What should we teach instead? Debate. People these days seem to have a really difficult time responding to logical arguments and things they disagree with. They are also easily manipulated. We believe children should be taught how to argue both sides of any issue (and that’s the key point, that they take both sides) and use evidence to support their reasoning. It might help with the divided climate we live in today. But even more importantly, it will help with the critical thinking and communication skills that too many people never fully develop.
3 – Advanced math.
This is a catch-all for a lot of things. Calculus or even pre-calculus shouldn’t be taught at the high school level. It’s not going to be used by the vast majority of people and nobody remembers it. Ask anyone (that’s not using it for their job) what a limit or derivative is and they’ll look at you like you’re speaking another language. The same goes for a lot of other math subjects. Do we really need to learn long division at early ages? We all use calculators. Do we really need to learn geometry or trigonometry? No, we don’t. That can be taught to the 5% of students when they go for their engineering or architecture degrees. At that time, those students will appreciate why they are learning it, be able to apply it to real situations, and be more likely to remember it.
What should we teach instead? A lot of time is wasted on these math subjects so this will be a good one. We’d suggest math-based real world subjects. Teaching students basic statistics. Teaching basic accounting, how to amortize a loan, the time value of money, and basic personal finance. And another one that needs some attention is using math in everyday scenarios. Estimation and logic is really needed in our society. So don’t yell at us for nixing math… we agree it’s extremely important. But let’s focus on things that are valuable to everyone and not the few that will ultimately use it.
4 – Physical education.
Before you bite our head off, read our rationale here. We actually think schools should require MORE time to physical education. But it needs to be taught differently than it is today. Having kids run around playing sports they might hate is counter-productive.
Some kids hate to play dodgeball and will just hide in the corner. Some kids hate to run or swim and will forge a doctor’s note. When the full class is playing basketball, there will be a few dominant players and everyone else will just be standing there. So why do we force kids to do things they hate and will clearly show no effort toward?
What should we teach instead? Why don’t we let kids pick what they do? We should have open gyms but ensure that movement is mandatory. If kids want to practice their sport, let them. Yoga or cheerleading? Let them. If they just want to walk around the track path talking to friends, let them. As long as they are moving for the full class, it is good. We also have to teach physical health a little better. Focus on nutrition and teach kids how to cook tasty but nutritious meals. Tteach them the importance of daily exercise. And the same goes for every other health topic.
5 – Anything relying on a classroom, textbook, and test.
We go on and on about this at Reverse Tide. It’s the stupidest way to teach imaginable, yet it’s still the default way. By now, we should have moved on to self-learning, collaborative projects, experiential learning, and more modern methods. It’s inexcusable that we can’t do better. And it’s no wonder that most adults have long forgotten pretty much every subjects they learned in school. Ask the average adult to name the state capitals. Or ask what an ion is. Ask them to tell you about Charlemagne’s historical significance (or even how to spell his name!).
We predict over 90% will stare at you blankly and not even be able to attempt an intelligent response. Yet these are the things we supposedly learned in school using classrooms, textbooks, and tests. They don’t teach us because nobody enjoys learning that way and nobody retains the knowledge. So the majority of our education was a complete waste of time.
What should we teach instead? Pretty much anything is better than the status quo. You could use the time we spend on useless teaching methods and have kids learn programming or a foreign language (and then practice in the real world). They would at least use that in their lives and retain a good portion of it. Even if we still teach geography, chemistry, and history, at least teach in a more innovative way. And if teachers can’t figure out how, virtual reality is going to do it for them soon enough. You can see our predictions on that in Virtual Reality’s Impact – Education.
Wouldn’t we be better off as adults if we learned our way? Wouldn’t we be better equipped for our handling important life matters and be better prepared for the career world? And wouldn’t learning be more fun if we knew it was for a greater purpose and using more modern methods? Of course. Now we just need to get school districts to listen!