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Time to Stop Teaching the Wrong Lessons
In This Issue: Why Do We Teach Outdated Lessons?
“I believe that we need to be teaching kids how to think outside of the box and be problem solvers.”
Not long ago, my 13-year-old son was bemoaning the struggles of his history class. He was frustrated by the fact that he has to memorize all these facts about history just so he can write it down on test day. It didn’t make sense to him. The worst part was that I couldn’t tell him that I agreed with him!
Since becoming a parent, I’ve realized that our school system is seriously broken. From what I’ve seen, there are two parts to this problem. The first part is the way we teach kids. Understand that this isn’t a problem with the teachers themselves — and I’m not just saying that because my wife is a teacher. They are instructed to teach their students to memorize facts for test day. The trouble is that in this day and age, anyone with a cellphone can look up a question and get the answer in four seconds.
Kids are really good at looking things up online. If they really need to know when the Civil War ended, they can get the answer immediately with their phones. Way back in the day, students were taught how to solve math problems with long arithmetic. Then calculators came along and we stopped teaching long arithmetic. It wasn’t necessary anymore. Why are we still making kids memorize trivia about history when they can look up that answer on their phones?
Rather than putting so much emphasis on memorization, I believe that we need to be teaching kids how to think outside of the box and be problem solvers. In law school you have to memorize stuff, but you aren’t going to get by unless you can solve a problem on your own. People who can only memorize facts don’t do so well in law school because they aren’t able to take what they know and solve problems that don’t have a simple answer.
The second problem with our school system is the way adults talk about schooling to kids. Most kids grow up hearing that they have to do well in school and go to a good college in order to get a good job. That’s just not true anymore. Yes, kids who want to be doctors or lawyers need to go to school, but what about kids who want to go into construction or computer programing? Tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Spotify aren’t always hiring people with degrees. They tend to go after people who are self-taught in computer programming, people who know how to solve problems and have proven that they have a real passion for the field.
My oldest son graduated from high school last year. He kept telling me that he wanted to go to college, but I realized that he was only saying that because I went to college and he thought that was what he was supposed to do. I sat down and asked my son why he wanted to go to college. He talked about how much he likes construction and wanted to get a 4-year degree in construction management. The thing is that I know a lot of guys who own construction companies, and none of them have college degrees.
We put so much value on a formal education with a college degree. But much like making kids memorize facts in history class, telling kids they need a degree doesn’t genuinely reflect today’s world. My son wanted a degree so he wouldn’t start his career at the bottom. We looked into it and found a certificate he can get in project management that will still help him in construction, but it will get him there in half the time. He decided that he’d rather go after the certificate instead of going to college, and he seems much happier now. It’s a big weight off his shoulders.
In the end, I think the best thing we can do as parents is support our kids. It takes time to figure out where you want your life to go and the current school system isn’t always the best institution to help kids build a life they will enjoy. We should let kids know that there are many paths they can take to find happiness in life. I am fortunate and I enjoy my life very much. I hope my kids are able to enjoy theirs, too.
–Ramiro Rodriguez, Jr.