SCHOOL'S OUT... BUT WHAT DID YOU LEARN?

More than one person I know believes the modern education curriculum is absolutely dead to reality.

Consider: kids at school aren’t taught how to do their taxes, but ask them to analyse Shakespeare from a Marxist perspective, and they’re right on the spot. I bet that ability to critique sixteenth century literature will come in handy when they become accountants or mechanics, right?

In fact, I have been taken aback when I think about what is compulsory in the current curriculum.

In my home state of NSW, English is compulsory right through to year 12, with most schools requiring Maths as well (my school demanded either maths or biology, for example).

Yet, here in South Australia, there is not one single subject which is compulsory in year 12.

Granted, yes, English and maths are compulsory in year 11, but not in year 12.

What IS compulsory? Just a research project.

I’m a big fan of learning to do proper research, but there’s other skills that will be needed in life.

That got me thinking, as you might have heard on GM EP this morning, about what should be taught at school.

For example, what is more important to educate an 18 year old about: Psychoanalytic interpretations of King Lear, or how to do your taxes?

How about this comparison on what’s more important: Learning that pouring melted moth balls down a sink is a bad idea or knowing what you’re doing when casting a vote? (NB: If you reach voting age and don’t know that pouring melted moth balls down a sink is a bad idea, then I have questions for the education department…).

I mention this because of Dean Jaensch’s article in today’s Advertiser (sorry, paywall) where he makes a most salient point.

“My view is we need to introduce politics as a compulsory subject in all schools from Year 9 to Year 11.

Our young people are soon to be active members of democratic Australia so the education system should have a responsibility to ensure students have the best grounding to be informed, educated and open-minded about politics.

This may have new impetus in the growing call for the voting age to be lowered to 16.

The recent demonstrations by masses of school students demanding action from governments on climate change is a case in point.

Why not use this mass movement through a formal political education process involving an understanding of how democratic processes function, and how to achieve desired actions from governments and parliaments?

Who knows, it may even influence the adult voters.”

Putting aside my own views on the climate change protestors, and lowering the voting age, Jaensch is right.

Involvement in the democratic process is something which will follow kids through their lives, but why stop there?

Why not make tax returns compulsory? It’s a far more useful life skill than interpreting Shakespeare.

What about a separate unit dedicated to critical thinking? Helps out more in the real world than calculating whatever that sin-cos-tan maths thing was (I think that had something to do with triangles…).

Perhaps making sure the English curriculum is dedicated to understanding English grammar and syntax could help (I have two degrees with one in communication, have written for a living and I still don’t have a full understanding of the concept of a semi colon…).

So, should government and politics be compulsory? For sure!

But what else?

I’d say taxes and compound interest for starters, for when you take out a loan for a car or house, plus other things through your life.

Maybe even throw in what was once called home economics, to make sure kids are equipped to cook (yes I can!) and sew (no I can’t!) when they leave home?

What would be your additions to the compulsory curriculum?