“Back in school they never taught us what we needed to know – like how to deal with despair or someone breaking your heart.”
And okay. Maybe no amount of education could prepare us for that sort of stuff. But there are a lot of things that schools can and should prepare students for. I think that whenever education reform occurs again instead of creating overly complicated ways to do math (yes, I’m looking at you Common Core), we should instead worry about ensuring students are being taught to be thoughtful, critical thinkers who are educated about the world they live in. Here’s how:
1) Media Studies
Okay, so I studied media as an undergrad. I may be a bit biased, but think about it: how much of your life is on the internet – paying bills, shopping, developing relationships, updating your social media presence(s), catching up on TV, streaming music… that’s just the stuff I’ve done in the past three hours. I really believe that when students are in 7th grade (or maybe earlier because, let’s face it, – many kids as young as 10 years old are on social networking sites) should be taught about privacy, protecting their identities, and how representing themselves can affect their future. 90% of teens have used some form of social media – shouldn’t we be showing them how to use it correctly?
2) Current Events
I feel like the last time a teacher covered this in a class I took it was paired with Social Studies in the 7th grade… or maybe even earlier. In high school is when we should really be talking to students about the news. Soon these kids will be able to vote, and we should be working to produce educated citizens who not only care about the world they live in, but see the impact they can have on it. That’s not to say we should shove any opinions down their throats. Instead, we should be teaching students how to access news (explaining that not every mainstream source is unbiased) and helping them to understand hot button issues that will always exist. Show them how what’s going on the world affects them and ultimately trying to help them develop their own well-educated opinions about what’s happening in the world.
3) Personal Development
This may be more of a college-level idea, but I think high school is an aspirational time when kids are really starting to figure out not only who they are, but also who they want to be. I’m not sure if there’s a way to teach this sort of thing in a safe setting that would be taken seriously, but wouldn’t it be cool if there could be a sort of What Would You Do? class where teachers talk through the tough stuff and help kids figure out their stance on any variety of issues (this may sort of overlap with my current events topic, but I like to think of it as a preemptive strike). Instead of waiting for something bad to happen before tackling an issue – i.e., discussing race in the wake of everything that’s happening with Ferguson – talking about the subject before that. Maybe if we can get to students earlier we can help shape the way their minds work and how they think about certain topics.
I acknowledge that similar classes may already exist in some school systems, but I believe these courses should be required in all schools. I use Facebook and Twitter a helluva lot more than I use any of the chemistry I learned junior year.
TL;DR: We need to add classes that help students better represent themselves, while also helping them understand the world they live in.
What do you think? Are there another topics you think students should be educated about? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time.