As much as I loved my high school trigonometry (oh, the trigs we nommed!), there have been very few occasions in my life when I’ve needed to measure a tangent, though I’ve been known to go off on one from time to time. I’ve also cosined a lease but that’s a story and geeky math pun for another time.
If I had pursued maths and sciences after high school, perhaps I would have remembered more from Pre-Calculus, Calculus and Calculus III: This Time It’s Reciprocal. And while I do recall some physics and chemistry, it’s essentially just enough to fool my children into believing I know what I’m talking about.
History? Probably doomed to repeat it. Art? I know art but I don’t know what I like. English? I used to be able to break down a sentence but now that’s all in the parsed.
What would be more helpful – and what I’m advocating forthwith – is to replace some of those abstract concepts at school with more practical skills that children could apply later in life. I’m tempted to start right off by eliminating gym class, but that theatre of belittlement turns out to be superb training for professional life and dating. Just never use Mr. Fancybottom words like “forthwith” in gym class because it only makes the wedgies worse.
So what do children need to know?
For starters, early childhood education might include training regarding the Tattle Threshold, that fine line buried somewhere within the parameters of “don’t be a tattletale, unless it’s a big deal, although if it’s only so-so you should try to work it out first, but not if you’re going to get hurt or if someone else is, in which case you should probably tell, except if your motivation is to get someone in trouble, which is a bad reason to tell, although ultimately you should just go ask your mother.” Come to think of it, this may be too complicated for early childhood education.
Students might also benefit from studying crapoeconomics, AKA The Duct Tape Theory, whereby one’s economic class is determined by the percentage of duct tape and plastic sheeting on one’s car.
In addition, students should learn to grow their own food so they can survive the impending apocalypse. This would dovetail nicely with Introduction to Zombie Decapitation.
Mandarin. Children should definitely be learning Mandarin.
More than anything, though – more than learning to balance a budget, more than understanding the nuances of the extended warranty (Contemporary Suckerism), more than having drummed into them that only by ignoring Kardashians will Kardashians go away – more than this, we need to be teaching children that they will grow old.
Sure, schools taught us about puberty and the changes in our bodies and the hair growing in weird places and the troubling thoughts. They had us read What’s Happening To Me? and told us everything would be fine. But they never warned us about hitting our forties and the changes in our bodies and the hair growing in weird places and the troubling thoughts. There are no books entitled It’s Not Happening For Me Anymore, and everything is definitely not going to be fine, especially not our retirement savings.
If the shock of aging was bad for us, it will be even worse for contemporary youth. So narcissistic and brazenly tattooed, they have no idea that someday they’ll no longer be supple-skinned, bendy or relevant. One minute they’ll be screaming about One Direction, and before they know it they won’t remember what direction that was. “YOLO” will no longer mean “you only live once” but “your old liver’s ossifying.”
Our pal science is actually leading the way on this, having created a face-aging app called “Face Retirement” for Merrill Lynch that takes one’s youthful photo and ages it in 10-year increments. The point of the app is to encourage young people to invest in their retirement, but I think it could be used for educational purposes (not least of which being never trust apps sponsored by banks).
If schools can teach our children that decrepitude is their destiny and that it’s a pretty short trip between partying all night with Ke$ha and a late-night bowl of Kashi, we will have prepared them for life, specifically a life where they’re drooped, pooped and out of the loop.