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Dutchess_III's avatar

Do you think high school curriculum need to focus more on everyday skills that a student might actually USE after they graduate?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42291points) February 24th, 2012

Most schools require
4 credits of English
3 credits of Math
3 credits of Science
Then they fill up with useless required classes like “Skills for Living,” that don’t really have much to do with actual living skills.

I think they should drop the last English credit in favor of a year of “Making Sure The Kid Can Actually Write A Complete And Proper Sentence And Paragraph, Whether They Can Tell You Why It’s Right Or Not.”

The electives I took (after the 3 R’s were mastered) did more for me in real life than anything else, but they’re treated as throw away classes.

I think they should require that all students learn a basic trade, and stick with it from their Sophomore year on (exceptions for changing their mind considered, of course) such as shop, welding, carpentry, hair dressing, convenience store basics, CNA tech, auto mechanics, basic computer skills, ...things that a lot of the students will actually be getting into after they graduate. Most schools do offer classes like that, but they are optional.

What other classes do you think should be required, above and beyond the 3R’s?

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15 Answers

Mariah's avatar

I’m in favor of leaving the curriculum generalized through high school. It’s hard enough to choose a major in college….if forced to choose a specialization at age 15 I would have ended up in a completely different field from what I’m pursuing now, and it’s definitely not what I want to pursue anymore. I really think high school needs to allow kids to explore lots of different fields and discover what interests them, in preparation for choosing a specialization.

I can definitely see your point though – learning some of the skills you list at high school age would be useful as hell. I kind of think they should be left optional though.

I do wish high school were less structured, with fewer hard and fast requirements, in order to give students the TIME to take those optional classes if they’re interested. I would have really enjoyed shop class, but everyone was screaming in my ear about how I needed to take all sorts of AP classes in order to get into college, and when it was all said and done I never found time in my schedule to take shop class. It’s too bad that high school these days is all about taking the classes that will get you into college, not about taking classes because god forbid you actually want to learn the material.

rojo's avatar

Not sure they should require you to pick a trade and stick with it but I do believe you should take a wide assortment of classes such as those mentioned just to round out your education and broaden your options.
As for life skill classes I think they are worthwhile IF they actually teach skills that can be applied in real world situations.

TexasDude's avatar

I think personal finance classes should be mandatory. I’d also like to see some technical courses required.

As a highschool student, I really wanted to take technical classes like auto mechanics, machine shop, and so on because I thought they would be genuinely useful, but I was forbidden because I was on the “college bound” curriculum path, which I just think is stupid.

marinelife's avatar

I think curricula should include non-violent conflict resolution, budgeting, dealing with your feelings.

wundayatta's avatar

Oh geez. My courses don’t fit in yours at all. Hmmm. How about basic home accounting and financial skills. How about how to buy a car. How about learning to play an instrument. I think everyone should be doing that from age 5. Basic video production. Any kind of computer tool at all. The more the merrier. Basic statistical analysis. Conservation. Organic gardening. Planning a trip to another country. Ceramics. Kitchen remodeling. Glass blowing. Bicycle mechanics. How to have a love relationship. Communications skills starting with listening. How to manage a group of people to achieve a task. How to be a skeptical consumer of news. Parenting 101. That’s a biggie.

Oh god. I’m only getting started. Where do we have time for all these things?

In a way, this is a great question, because it allows us to talk about what we think education is missing. But in another way, it’s kind of a hopeless questions because it can go anywhere and everywhere and there is no hope of agreement about anything.

Under the Orange Tree.

nikipedia's avatar

I am confused. Do you think English class is unrelated to “Making Sure The Kid Can Actually Write A Complete And Proper Sentence And Paragraph, Whether They Can Tell You Why It’s Right Or Not.”?

wundayatta's avatar

What I really think is that high schools should be flexible and allow kids to learn what they think they need to learn. Through those things, they should be taught basic skills that are necessary for learning anything at all.

@nikipedia She’s just using this as a way to bitch about her pet peeves. English class doesn’t work. Change the name and teach it my way. That’ll learn them kids!

missingbite's avatar

I’m confused as to what should be taught at home? How to buy a car for a high school class? Home budgeting for a high school class? Where are the PARENTS???

Seaofclouds's avatar

I agree with @Mariah about it staying generalized in regular high school. Where I went to school, we had our regular high school and then there were also vocational high schools as well. The vocational schools focused on skills like you mentioned for those students that knew what they wanted to get into, while the regular high school focused on general courses so that people could prepare for college (if that was their plan) or remain undecided and learn about multiple areas.

When I graduated, we had to have 4 years of English, 3 years of Social Studies (civics, U.S. history, and world history), 3 years of Math, 3 years of Science, 1 full year of Physical Educations (split in 2 years), ½ year of Health class, 2 years of Foreign Language (our school offered 3 different languages: Spanish, French, and German), 1 year of Computer classes, and then our elective credits as well.

We had a ton of elective classes we could choose from, including: cooking, welding, wood shop, art, drama, music (band or chorus), the newspaper (the class focused on the actual writing for the paper), photography, astronomy, a bunch of additional computer classes, driver’s education, and a bunch of others that I can’t think of right now.

DominicX's avatar

I have to disagree, and I have to echo what @Mariah and @Seaofclouds said about high school remaining general. Most high school kids don’t really know what they’re going to be doing for a career (or if they have an idea, it may radically change later on). Taking math, science, English, history, and electives in high school led to me discover that even though I was getting good grades in science and math, it wasn’t what I preferred and that Latin was my favorite class and that I wanted to continue with the language-related classes in college (and thus I became a Linguistics major). Whereas I wouldn’t have really known that at the beginning of high school—it was something that developed over time (and it developed even further during college).

And yes, some kids will be going into a trade like that after high school, but not all will (and it depends on the school and the location). Learning something like that would’ve been relatively useless to me, but what would’ve been useful would have been more information about basic money management in my economics class—we got a little bit of it, but not enough. Yes, I learned a lot of that from my parents, but it would’ve been nice to have that in school. And there was a living skills class, but it was optional, and it was mostly taken by kids who weren’t planning on going to college (or were going to community college, which, let’s face it, at my school, was looked down upon by most kids). What I’m getting at is that people I knew never would’ve taken that class. So while I think trade-specific classes should continue to be optional, more general life-skills classes could be required or improved.

@nikipedia That’s largely true, but my experience with English class, while it was largely positive, it did seem like we spent an awful lot of time overanalyzing literature (as in, analyzing “meaning” that the author himself never intended for the work), which isn’t terribly helpful in the “real world”.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I took a lot of trade-related and practical skills classes (cooking, relationships, personal finance, etc). The biggest problem is the assumption that, when English classes apparently don’t teach you “Making Sure The Kid Can Actually Write A Complete And Proper Sentence And Paragraph, Whether They Can Tell You Why It’s Right Or Not” (and I don’t entirely disagree), even though that is in every way one of the most basic things English classes should teach you, that the practical classes will somehow be competent. They aren’t. The cooking class chose to teach students how to make their own jam over how to make spaghetti sauce (because so often, when one is trying to save money by eating out less, they think “let’s buy hundred of dollars of jamming equipment and worry about botulism”). The relationships class taught how to care about the 4 Cs of diamonds and know if an arranged marriage is right for you (nope, not even joking…) instead of conflict resolution, and its ideas on what constitute a healthy relationship were at least 30 years behind the times (same as the rest of public school textbooks). Really, they all taught skills that were useless, useful but not more so than all the other hundred or so more useful and fundamental things, or outright offensive. So, in addition to what @Mariah said, it just wouldn’t really end up changing things for the better.

GladysMensch's avatar

Alright, here’s what I would like to see in every high school curriculum.

Religious Studies:
Why? Most people on Earth hold some sort of religious belief. Understanding those beliefs will help us better understand each other.
Topics: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Atheism…

Personal Economics:
Why? Many adults are confused by this stuff. Wouldn’t it be great to have an understanding of these concepts before you went out on your own?
Topics: Loans and credit, leases, mortgages, IRA’s and other saving accounts, the stock market, personal and family budgets, insurance…

Mr Fix It: Why? Will help students better understand the simplicity and complexity of everyday items. Will help students become more independent, safer, and will help them save $1000’s.
Topics: general wiring, plumbing, painting, furnaces, insulation, small engine and automotive maintenance, drills, saws, and hand tools…

TexasDude's avatar

@GladysMensch when I’m president, you’re going to be the head of my Dept. of Education.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@nikipedia How many people graduate HS with their 4 credits of English, yet can NOT put together a coherent, correct sentence? Have you looked at any opinion posts under some news articles? You have to assume the majority of the authors of those opinions have been graduated from High School…and they can not put together a sentence. They should have a year of making sure that the students actually CAN write properly, and it doesn’t matter whether they understand the technical details of why it’s right. Many of us take classes in higher math and know the steps to reach the right answer but don’t fully understand the intricate logic that goes into it. We use computers without understanding all that there is to know about computers. We use TV without understanding how it works.

I second @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard!! @GladysMensch I think you hit the spirit of my question. I knew it was worded clunky, but yes, that’s what I’m getting at. Teach skills that they will actually use.

SavoirFaire's avatar

First, I disagree with the implied premise that high schools do not already focus on everyday skills that their students might actually use after graduation. My school district had a mandatory computer skills class in elementary and middle school, the content of which has been continually revised as technology becomes more complex and the teachers better qualified. By the time my wife graduated, she had learned basic programming as part of this class.

This is leaving aside the fact that the four credits of English, three credits of mathematics, and three credits of science are also useful in everyday life (though I’m not sure @Dutchess_III was actually denying that; the OP confused me a little). People use math in almost every single profession, for instance, and any understanding of science is a good thing. I also think that all four credits of English include elements aimed at making sure that the students can write complete and proper sentences and paragraphs.

That people refuse to do so after graduation does not prove they cannot. Fluther gets plenty of illiterate questions from new members that come back pristine after one round of editing when we send them back, which shows that it is laziness—and not ignorance—causing at least some of the poor English we see all across the internet. The skill is there, but the will is absent.

As for the people who really cannot write a proper sentence, I do not think that English class is to blame. Instead, it is the insidious practice of social promotion. We need to regain our willingness to fail students and hold them back. To make a high school diploma really mean something again, we need to make sure that mere school attendance is not the only requirement. Unfortunately, parents seem to have changed sides in the last few decades. I’m all for parental advocacy of their children, but sacrificing actual learning for marks on a sheet of paper doesn’t seem like a good way of doing that.

I do agree with @GladysMensch about a comparative religion course. I’ve been advocating that for years, though I tend to get resistance from both sides (that is, from people who don’t want any religion but their own in school, and from people who don’t want any religion at all in school). I also agree with @GladysMensch and @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard about the personal finance course. Maybe it could be part of a larger, redesigned home economics course. I wouldn’t require trade courses, however, even though I’d like them to be available. Required courses should be the ones that are useful to everyone in all walks of life.

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