A niece of mine told me about her “worst” teacher. This teacher developed an economy within the classroom involving a paper currency. Students had to pay rent on their desks and pay to use the restroom or water fountain. They had to earn the money by doing homework and participating in class. I think by “worst,” my niece meant “least fun.” I think she even understood that there was something valuable in that teacher’s method, even if she, as a child, didn’t get it.
I’m not much of a critic of the education system because my knowledge of it is limited to my experience through it. But I have wondered if it could be better. I do think the traditional curriculum are important, but I also think there must be a failure somewhere. I think that based on my own personal experience.
My experience is that most college graduates, including myself, are almost never ready for real life. College graduates often are wary of or totally clueless doing things like interviewing for a job, managing their income, or even renewing their license tag.
I loved my liberal arts education from Presbyterian College. My college’s slogan was “Are you interested in everything?” PC, as we called it, truly did attract students with a huge appetite for academic knowledge. The college delivered on its implicit promise. PC taught me how to think and how to be an active and caring participant of free society.
A former manager of mine, with whom I still work, teases me about how terrible my interview was. I struggled to come up with specific answers to his targeted questions about my work habits. I concealed my nervousness with a relaxed facade, but it was too much so I reeked of apathy. Years later he mused out loud why a college education in business didn’t prepare me for what a company wants to hear in an interview. I love my alma mater so I had to let a pang of defensiveness pass before responding. “I guess they taught us the theory of a company rather than how to get a job at one.”
Beyond liberal arts colleges, I think most educational institutions fall short of arming children with the knowledge and skills to navigate the adult world. So what do we need? I personally think how to eat and exercise are probably the most important things to learn. That could be expanded into why and how your body works. We also need hands on games to teach kids how hard money management is. Most of all, we need teachers like my niece’s worst teacher.
Afterthought: I’ve noticed that college graduates understand the concepts of hard work and good work. I assume this is the skill ingrained by 16 years of homework, studying, and taking tests to get to the next grade level. Many people can at least keep a job with that skill, but they may be confused why their good work didn’t automatically graduate them to “the next level.” That’s because advancing professionally requires more than just good work. Advancing at a company means navigating personalities, being collaborative, and developing a 6th sense for creating value.