Education is the activities of educating or instructing that impart knowledge or skill. It is essential that you’re instructed in order to learn a formal education, and that the specific skills being received by the pupil are unique towards their purpose. Simply, an instructor ought to teach a student the skills the student needs to achieve a purpose. By this definition of education and the conclusion that has been deduced from it, a student must look at the ends the means look to achieve: that is, what specific skills do students need in the “real world?”
To answer this, let’s consider two (typical) cases: the doctor and the lawyer. If someone decides he/she wants to become a doctor-that is, an employed physician that works to improve the health of others-they ought to accumulate a strong foundation of knowledge about the body and its functions. Thus, that person goes to a medical school. If someone decides he/she wants to become a lawyer-that is, an employed speaker that knows and utilizes the law in order to serve their clients-they ought to know a lot about the law and how to defend or argue against it. Thus, that person goes to law school.
In these two instances, both the lawyer and the doctor receive specialized instruction from an institution that allows them to perform their job. Without it, these people who aspire to have these jobs would not have the education to be a lawyer or a doctor.
Both of these examples show how the education system ought to work; people aspire towards a vocation, and thus they receive specialized training in order to perform that vocation. In the previously mentioned cases, the education system worked perfectly. There is a different situation, however, that shows how the secondary education system is deeply flawed. Let’s consider another case.
There are people that do not aspire to achieve a college education. These people also have jobs open to them that may or may not require a high school diploma. What specific skill sets are needed for these jobs? Well, the basic clergy job performs at least one of the following: answering telephone calls, performing an inventory checklist, greeting customers, handling and sending mail, etc. Why aren’t these basic skills taught in high school?
Someone might think that these skill sets are out of the question and that the core courses of math, science, history, and literature might supersede them. My question is: how much more likely are high school graduates to use these skill sets than balance a chemical formula, critic a book, write custom thesis or use the quadratic equation?
The courses being taught in high school are needed – they are essential to the fundamental understanding of the world. People do need math, history, and such in order to have a well-rounded education and understand even the basic processes of what happens in current events and why. If it were up to me, there would be more classes geared towards more niche topics for students to choose from, even religion. But, in the argument I am presenting now, we have to remember that we are taking in to consideration those students that do not aspire to a college education. The point is: how is our high school gearing them for a job after they graduate? The high school of today is not. According to the National Center for Education Statistics report in 1995, only 64% of high school graduates that did not attend college were employed. Why only 64%? Why can’t our high schools do a better job of providing employment for its graduates?
There are more skills sets that basic education should provide other than the typical clergyman’s task. I’ve met college graduates that do not know how to balance a checkbook, invest in the stock market, or use an Excel spreadsheet to manage their expenses. These are functions that every person in the modern age should be able to perform. How did this happen?
Then there is of course the topic of religion. Daniel Dennett, a professor from Tufts University, insists that all religions be introduced to students from a very young age until graduation from high school. Dennett insists that by giving students an objective outlook of all religions, students will be able to choose what they believe. Of course, this causes an uproar among religions everywhere, but think for a moment: how much more tolerant, how much more cohesive would society be if we actually knew what Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Judaism fundamentally believed?
Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine was approach by a stranger. After a small discussion, the stranger remarked that President-elect Obama was the Antichrist. Her evidence was that “in Revelation it says that [the antichrist] would be a forty year old man of Muslim descent.” Islam appeared over 700 years after the book of Revelation, and of course, the book of Revelation says no such thing. By instituting an objective introduction of religion into schools, we can alleviate this type of misinterpretation (for lack of a better word), and even strive towards relieving discrimination that people place on other religions.
To come full circle, education is deeply flawed. Our high school education system needs to be better geared toward the average individual-towards preparing one to work in the “real world,” despite students’ aspirations towards college. People need to be taught how to balance a checkbook, write a resume, have polite telephone skills, etc. The 1995 rate of 64% employment of high school graduates who did not attend college is unacceptable. It should not be mandatory to pay the thousands of dollars of college in order to get a “good” job. While we are diving into the difficult niche topics of differential equations and becoming fluent in foreign languages, we are forgetting the basics that are needed to survive in our society today.
If nothing will be done-if no legislative process will help curb this mis-informative education-then at least use this essay as motivation to teach your kids what they are not being taught. Go home and ask your kids if they know how to complete an inventory checklist; if they know how to balance a checkbook; if they know how to gain credit; if they know how to invest in the stock market; if they know the five pillars of Islam. In a time where there is a huge economic crisis and we are fighting wars that are sometimes misinterpreted as a war against Islam, it is very valuable to have knowledge about how businesses operate and what other religions believe. It’s time to get real with our education system.