Why didn’t they teach me this in school?

‘This one book taught me more than I ever learned in school, you guys should read it’ (Instagram influencer et al, 2021, post 163)

I am a teacher and it got me thinking, it can’t possibly be true, can it? Many throw away statements made by those who have passed through a schooling process will be negative about the experience and usefulness of their education. Here are five common ones.

‘Why didn’t I learn this in school?’  

‘Why don’t they just teach me how to do my taxes in school?’.  

‘Why did I need to learn poetry quotes, history facts and the quadratic formula?’.

‘It was all a waste of fourteen years of my life, I couldn’t wait to be finished’.

‘Why do we need to learn all this math? I am never going to use it in real life’

As teachers we are hampered by an archaic system of education which is all geared towards a final set of exams. These exams are generally limited to cognitive logical and linguistic abilities and not much else. Changing that is difficult as the pressure increases every year for better results in the race to get to the ‘best’ colleges. Reform of that is a discussion for another day. Here are some responses to the common statements above.

Why didn’t I learn this in school?

Answer – school is about giving you the ability and hopefully love of learning in order to continue to learn for the rest of your life. It isn’t about filling you up and cramming you with every skill needed for your life and setting you off on your way to as a complete human.

Why don’t they just teach me how to do my taxes in school?

Answer – ‘They’ do. You can read and fill out the form. You should understand percentages and what taxes are. 14-year-old you would be even less interested in long tax form classes than you would be now.

Why did I need to learn poetry quotes, history facts and the quadratic formula?

Answer – You shouldn’t have to, but you should have understood the significance of each. If not, then perhaps you were let down by the curriculum if it required such rote learning.

It was all a waste of fourteen years of my life, I couldn’t wait to be finished.

Answer – possibly, the school system does need to be reformed. Although how much you have learned beyond the syllabus is unquantifiable, look beyond the tests.  

This one book taught me more than I ever learned in school.

Answer – Perhaps school taught you how to read and process this book.

Why do we need to learn all this math? I am never going to use it in real life’

Answer – math is brain training, it improves your problem solving and logical thinking, if you stayed on percentages and adding money forever your brain would suffer for it. Going beyond every day math is where the brain grows.

Unfortunately, a complete education system overhaul would require a monumental amount of money. This is not sexy enough for a government, it won’t win the votes. The class sizes and the number of standardized tests need to decrease so schools and teachers can have the freedom make the educational experience more holistic and enjoyable. This will help children become happier, less stressed, more interested in learning and healthier but perhaps that is trivial in the race for higher test scores.

Want to read more about what it is like to be a teacher in a modern school check out my book about teaching

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