I’m going to be totally honest. No one has ever asked me the capital of Madagascar, I have never been ridiculed for not knowing the names of the US Presidents in chronological order, and I haven’t had a reason to dissect a frog in more than 50 years.
Unless you’re going to be a tour guide in Antananarivo, aspire to sit behind a desk in the Oval Office, or become an amphibian surgeon, one day you can say the exact same thing. While geography, history and biology are all part of the academic curriculum in high schools throughout this great country of ours, they have very little application for—let’s face facts—the rest of our lives after we leave the friendly confines of public education and take our place in society.
Currently the basic high school curriculum includes four credits each of language arts, math, science, three credits of social studies, and (only!) a half credit each for personal fitness and health. Then there are seven additional credits falling into the category of ‘electives’ that include technology, a foreign language, and fine arts.
I always thought of the perfect curriculum as one containing what I refer to as ‘the four R’s:’ reading, writing, (a)arithmetic, and running (although any form of cardiovascular exercise will do). In this day and age, an education in technology also makes sense. Everything else I’d put in a big basket labeled ‘nice to know’ and free up some room for credits in courses that people, especially in this day and age, could actually use. In other words, today’s students need to be taught things with practical applications; tools they’ll need to navigate through the rest of their lives.
• What to do if you’re involved in an automobile accident. There’s a lot more to it than just calling mom, dad or AAA. And if the accident involves another party, how to handle some ambulance-chasing attorney encouraging the other party to sue you for the ‘latent whiplash’ they suffer down the road.
• How to file your personal income tax. I personally know people that have trouble navigating through an issue of TV Guide. How can they be expected to know what is and isn’t deductible when they’re incapable of figuring out that Survivor comes on at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays?
• What can and cannot be heated up in a microwave. Establishing a line of credit. Recognizing expiration dates on food and drink. Developing a sensible household budget. Taking care of dirty laundry; dishes, too for that matter. Why you should never buy anything in a convenience $tore. How to change a flat tire (without calling mom, dad or AAA). Choosing the right day care for your children. The value of termite protection for your home. The correct way to navigate a roundabout. Table manners. Determining the amount of an appropriate tip. How to make out a will.
I think you get the idea. There are so many things that aren’t taught in school that you’re going to need the moment you’re out of it. Let’s be practical and start teaching our children—the adults of tomorrow, the things that will be of use to them for the rest of their lives.
Writing this reminds me of something that happened a few years ago. My wife and I were driving north on I-75 and we stopped for gas at an exit in a small town just south of Macon. We went inside to pay Cindy and noticed a box of her favorite lollipops (Charms Sweet ‘N Sour Pops, if you must know) on the shelf of the candy aisle. Since she has a hard time finding them, Cindy decided to buy all of them.
Cindy put the lollipops on the counter and announced she was buying the entire box of 24. As the lollipops sold for 15 cents apiece the young man behind the register started keying on the adding machine sitting on the counter:
15 + 15 + 15 + 15 + 15…
I stopped him and said ‘you know, if you just punch in 15 times 24 it will give you the total price. And the total will be $3.60, if you want to save some time. Plus tax, of course.’
He looked at me with a dazed look in his eyes, didn’t say a word and went back to keying on the adding machine:
15 + 15 + 15 + 15 + 15…
All that to say this; there is one other course that should be part of the high school curriculum:
One in common sense.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs, and writes in Senoia. His latest book, “Southern Charm: Columns from a small town Georgia newspaper,” as well as the rest of his books, can be found on his author page on Amazon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.