Thursday, March 11, 2010

Things I Wish They Taught Me In School

As I'm going on my fifth year of college, I've experienced a myriad of problems with university-level education. From too-large classes to crap professors, standardized general education waste-of-my-time tests to inaccessible facilities, fee hikes, strikes, financial aid idiocy, and various attempts at exclusivity-aimed reform, my time as a student has taught me really only one viable skill for life outside the academy:

How to bullshit.

Surprised? Don't be. Ask any student (senior-status or above) and they'll tell you the exact same thing. Sure, the stories will differ, and the answers will vary, but in general they center around that basic concept of bullshitting. Whether it's a procrastinated term-paper or an unexpected question from the teacher, we students are constantly learning how to meet requirements through dexterous use of bullshit. It's an essential skill really.

However, I think there should be more to my thousands of dollars spent towards a college degree. The bang for my buck just isn't there, and personally I've been rather disappointed with how little of what I learn is what I want to learn.

In commemoration to the recent Day of Action protesting across the country budget cuts to education, I have outlined a few things that should be on the curriculum in our institutions of "higher learning", and especially in our public schools K thru 12.

1. How to sell yourself.

When you have to go out into the real world to find a job, those long essays you wrote in college aren't really going to be helpful. Because you see, employers don't give a damn about what you think. They just want to see you have the necessary skills, and a quiet temperament to do the work without a fuss.

Yet, at the same time, how do we go about competing if we're all jammed into the same box? How do you differentiate yourself in a system designed to recognize only cogs in a wheel?

That's where selling yourself comes in. They need a class on making resumes, cover letters, interviews, highlighting your marketable qualities -- while at the same time minimizing your less marketable qualities (which usually involve some sort of individuality and independence). They need to teach us how get a job before/after/around when they teach us a job to do. There needs to be academic departments on where to find employment in the careers we've chosen. There need to be lectures about how our fields of study can be applied to the professional world. (Read: real world.)

Most importantly, this has to be done from a young age. This needs to be instilled as a primary skill on the same level as reading, writing, and arithmetic, because it's the one that'll get us employed before that other stuff.

2. How to use technology.

Sorry, but not enough emphasis is put on computers. And not just computers, but computer programs, software, hardware, gizmos, gadgets, and all sorts of techno-crap like that. People need to learn how to fax, how to use Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Explorer, Firefox, and how to operate their various laptops/desktops/palmwhatevers optimally without breaking them so easily.

People need to get training in advanced computer maintenance, beyond just "disk cleanup" and into system restore, reformatting the hard-drive, reboots, internet connection set-ups, and even basic hardware! Then take all that knowledge and apply it to iPods, iPhones, Blackberries, modems, cable TV, video-game consoles, etc. They need to learn to apply the standards of technology across their respective boundaries so that they can utilize any type of tech they come across because they've got the basics in their head. And why is that important? Because technology is everywhere.

3. How to use the internet.

There's so much knowledge out there, and it all takes fucking ages to learn that there's just no point in going to school for the rest of your life. Why get a PhD when you can just Google all the information you need?

I know that sounds heretical, but it's true! Knowledge is dense, yet now easily accessible with just a few well-placed searches -- if you know where to look. The entire scope of what we as a species know can be found among the terrabytes of data floating cyberspace. And this information is the key to our status as human beings, for he who cannot draw upon the sum totality of human knowledge is living hand to mothafuckin' mouth!

And thus, people need to learn how to use the internet! And even more than that, how to determine what information is relevant/important/true so they can make the best decision. They need to be able to navigate the winding paths of Google, Wikipedia,, online encyclopedias, databases, individual research sites, and other various forms of internet information.

The interwebs are complicated, and while nobody is an expert, teaching people to utilize it for the tool that it is -- how to search properly to find difficult or obscure things, how those search results are obtained and organized, how relevancy is determined, and even how information control can be a factor on what you find -- so that everybody is prepared for the world which is constantly changing, becoming far more complex and interlocking than previously anticipated.

4. How to speak more than one language.

Not to burst your nationalistic-bubble here, but language lessons are fucking MASSIVELY IMPORTANT! English is a skill that can be highly profitable, if only we learn it right the first time. But while we're mastering one language, let's get a few others, because you can only easily learn new languages for so long.

We need foreign languages in the classroom at the very beginning! Kids need to be taught Spanish (especially Spanish), French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Farsi, Swahili, Afrikaans, Dutch, Portuguese, Hebrew, Yiddish, and many others. I'm not saying everybody should become a polyglot, but fluency in at least two languages is a must!

In other parts of the world, there are kids who grow up speaking four to five different languages, and some even become fluent in as many as seven! These aren't linguists here either. These are just plain folks. Language is a skill, because communication is the primary means of interaction in the world, and understanding what people are saying no matter where you're at is a valuable skill that will take you far, just on that alone!

Imagine how much easier it would be to get along in the world knowing at least one other language besides your own.

Imagine how much money you could make teaching practical English to students in their native-tongue.

Anyhoo, those are the primary skills I see as necessary in these modern times. They are what I use every day to get by, even as an artist, but especially as a student. I'm sure after I leave college they'll only become more important as I have to stop relying on the academy for assistance.

My recommendation is to teach kids these things as soon as possible to get the best foundation for their understanding. So, it'd be best to start in like, kindergarten, but first grade definitely.

And I know, ya'll are saying it's too much for children, that they won't understand it, that it's too intense. Well, let me ask you: what the fuck is education for? We're teaching them things to use later in life as much as now. We're preparing them for when they have to go out into the world and, not just make a living, but inherit it after we're gone.

You can only coddle children for so long before you're just fucking them up.

You can only teach useless things for so long before people wake up and realize they've been had.

Time to learn something useful! Time to make education relevant!

Time to drop some goddamn knowledge bombs!


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