In America, we spend the first 20 years of our life learning about general areas of knowledge in school that most of us don’t remember by the time we reach our 21st birthday.
If you’ve ever watched that show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”, I know you don’t remember learning about half of those questions that are asked. They seem like common knowledge that any fifth grader should know, but fast-forward several years and the answers to those questions you had tucked neatly away in your cranial pockets are nowhere to be found.
I understand it is important to have basic understanding of American history, basic math skills, basic English grammar and punctuation rules, basic principles of science, etc. But past the basics, no one remembers the little details, especially if it isn’t within the realm of what you want to do for the rest of your life.
I went all the way up to Calculus and can tell you that I don’t remember a single thing past adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing (maybe long division). And am I the least bit ashamed? NOPE. I will never have to use any of those skills or solve for xy squared to the fifth degree of Einstein for anything in my life. And most other people won’t either.
Perhaps learning general education is excusable up until senior year in high school, but after that, I don’t feel colleges should enforce it as a requirement.
As a senior in college, I still don’t remember half the things I learned in my first 2 years of general ed. classes. I only took these filler fluff classes because I HAD to. If general education weren’t a requirement, I could have focused on taking the classes I needed to pursue my career and be graduated already. But no, instead I wasted the first few years learning information I didn’t care about or need to learn about because I couldn’t get my degree otherwise.
I think taking general education in college should be mandatory only for those who do not declare a major upon acceptance into the institution. General ed. should only be for those who still need to explore the realm of possible subjects that interest them in terms of careers. But for those who are absolutely sure of what they want to do and are okay with not going back to switch his or her major, I think it should be optional.
Not only do our university’s system of general education requirements lack any credibility, but we don’t learn what we should be learning in terms of receiving general knowledge.
When students graduate and enter the working world, there is still so much they don’t know how to do: file taxes, write checks, write a decent resume, write a cover letter, vote, buy a car, buy a house, open a bank account, invest wisely, deal with interpersonal relationships, and many other things that functioning and contributable human beings should be able to do.
All of these things listed are general points of knowledge that every adult SHOULD know how to do. But instead, they know the Pythagorean theorem and maybe three of our nation’s former presidents.
Applause, America. Way to produce a bunch of cogs in a machine that don’t even function properly.
Japanese students are taught at an early age that getting the right answer is not the best method of education. Instead, they focus on HOW to get the answer right, how to work well with others, and are praised for the amount of improvements they make rather than how many answers they can get correct on a test. The teachers are more concerned that their students know how to find the right answer rather than memorize the correct response because this allows it to remain in their memory storage longer. In other words, students understand how to fix their errors and are made to feel like equals so no one is left behind.
Meanwhile in America…
We shove standardized tests down students’ throats and scold people for missing the answer on a test. We fail to spend time to go over why that student did not understand the answer and proceed to move on with the subject, leaving all those behind that did not get the answer right the first time. And even those who did answer correctly probably spent endless hours cramming the right answers into their memory which is why we cannot hold knowledge for very long; this is not a suitable learning method and the answer flies out of our memory shortly after we are tested on the subject because no emphasis was placed on how to find the correct answer. We care so much about how many points we get right on a test that we fail to acknowledge or appreciate the efforts made in how to get there.
Not only this, but what we still fail to grasp is that not everyone does well on standardized tests. People vary in the way they absorb information. Some are auditory learners while others may be visual or hands-on learners. It’s like judging all animals’ level of success by their ability to climb a tree. Of course a monkey will succeed, but ask a giraffe or fish to do it, and they will surely fail. Not everyone is equipped with the same gear to learn the same thing. That doesn’t mean the fish and the giraffe should be seen as inferior, it just means they have different talents and methods to success than the monkey. The same is applicable to humans. We are not all built the same and therefore should not be held to the same standards.
When all is said and done, we make people go through years of general education, making them learn things that won’t apply to how they might contribute to the workforce and then filter them based on their ability to test well.
We basically succeed in wasting people’s time in school.