Prioleau Alexander: what real “education reform” looks like

Most kids have two main complaints about high school academics: a) It’s boring. b) I will never use this material again.

They’re right.

Here’s a list of things I’ve never used since high school except to work my way up to a college degree: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, biology, ancient history, and physical science. I used Spanish, but I never needed to know the past perfect verb tense. I never needed to know the name or date of a treaty before my life.

I used a lot of what I learned in my English lessons, but certainly nothing of the boring crap like Beowulf or the Canterbury Tales. And I used some of the stuff I learned in psychology, because that knowledge helps me better understand why politics is full of sociopathic narcissists…and why they’re willing to sell their souls to get re-elected.

But enough about my schooling – what about school today?

A friend of mine was inspired by Dead Poets Society to become an English teacher, and was assigned to tenth grade “basic education” students at Wando High School. Before the tests, he wrote questions on the board and the class discussed the correct answers. The next day the tests were open-book open notes. He told me that at least half of his class got zeros on every test, because they couldn’t bother filling in the answers.

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These children will obviously not go to university… but they are going to waste two more years in high school – getting zeros and getting in trouble.

Why? Because they have no parents demanding they learn all the useless things, even if they are not going to use them.

So what motivates most children in tenth grade? Money and sex. Apparently, high school kids finding a sex partner these days is about as hard as losing money in Vegas, so the only real carrot hanging out there is money.

Kids who get zeros have no chance of ever earning more than minimum wage – and they know it – so they’ve already given up or have a wild dream about how they’ll get rich: pro sports, music, winning the lottery, being a Tik Tok influencer, scamming the system or selling drugs.

Nothing they won’t learn in 11e and 12e grade will do them good.

Let’s continue here and look at the basic trades that don’t require a formal high school education…but do require literacy, curiosity, and commitment.

Framers
Cabinetmakers
Carpenters in woodwork
CDL Drivers
house painters
Framers
Photographers
Handymen
Gunsmiths
Masons
hairdressers

Now imagine if we could take the years needed for 11e and 12e class and — instead of wasting their time in classes where they learn nothing — place these students in active learning in these areas. The school might take a month to educate them on the pros and cons of each profession. Some will be more difficult than others, so they will need to educate students on the real time it takes to be, say, a skilled heavy equipment operator – which is years, no doubt. As with any high-paying job, paying your dues is mandatory…but there is hope for those willing to pay their dues.

Some high-paying jobs require a commitment to study, but not a degree — and they’d be great for smart kids who aren’t interested in college. Yes, many of them would require a high school diploma from a typical grad applying for an entry-level position, but this new system would have kids with a two-year practical apprenticeship. They could receive a high school diploma.

car mechanics
HVAC technicians
Electricians
Marine Diesel Mechanics
Locksmiths
commercial diver
Beauty products
Laboratory assistants
Dental hygienists
plumbers
welders
bulldozer operators
crane operators

Why is it not obvious for children? Because no one teaches them about these opportunities; schools are too busy demanding that students know what happened at the Treaty of Ghent.

Would the children be paid for their work? Well, what are we paying for them to sit in class and not learn anything all day? It would be hard for most companies to turn down the offer of a free apprentice, and once the two years were up, the youngster would have had plenty of time to impress their employer.

In the same vein, however, we have to understand that some of the kids won’t cut it. If they fail to impress the company offering the apprenticeship and get fired, too bad. They can go back to high school and get zeros until it’s time to go on welfare or dig ditches.

At least we would have given them a fighting chance.

There are additional job skills that will need to be taught to those students who are heading into a trade, usually because their parents haven’t — because their parents haven’t been able to pass on the lessons either. Yes, these may seem obvious, but they are taught in detail to ex-offenders who plan to do something with the rest of their lives.

Again, it’s because no one ever taught them these simple concepts of life, which is one of the reasons they ended up in jail.

Things employers like about you:

  • Take responsibility for your actions and mistakes. (Most bosses don’t care if you make a mistake, as long as you admit it and learn from it).
  • The essential nature of being on time and never running out of work. (You are part of a team, and the team cannot function without you).
  • Speak and act professionally. (No one has ever been reprimanded for saying “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” to a client or their boss).
  • The importance of a good bearing. (Stand up straight and move with urgency).
  • Complete honesty. (Anyway, answer a boss’s questions honestly, regardless of the consequences).
  • Look for additional responsibilities. (If you have completed the task assigned to you, tell someone. The boss will always come around the corner when you sat down 30 seconds ago).
  • An optimistic attitude is essential. (No one wants to be around – let alone work with – a complainant. If you’re not feeling optimistic, pretend).
  • Respect. (Your employer isn’t lucky to have you – you’re lucky to have your job. Treating your boss, coworkers, and customers with respect doesn’t mean you admit they’re better than you. means you appreciate them – and by showing respect you can expect that respect to be returned to you).
  • Professional Appearance: (If your colleagues dress badly, but you arrive looking neat, you will be noticed by your bosses).

These things are not a one-day seminar…they should be emphasized to students over and over and over again. In many cases, we would ask them to unlearn a lifetime of behavior.

Another area we should be teaching these students is self-reliance: good financial planning, handyman skills, nutritional cooking, and living in harmony with roommates. Basic business management should also be included for kids who want to own their own business one day.

Tragically, education – or lack thereof – is big business. Those in the upper ranks rarely want the best for the kids…they want the power. They want facilities. They want to build visible physical “things” so they can say, “I did this.”

The only way to achieve real change in education is to have a team of businessmen standing up, rallying voters and raising funds to educate the public about a new approach to education.

Will be expensive? I do not know. Is it expensive to keep thousands of children who get zeros on tests? Is it expensive to incarcerate people? Is it expensive to provide social assistance to people without qualifications? Is there value in saving a child from a life of poverty?

We just need a leader.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Supplied)

Prioleau Alexandre is a freelance writer, focusing primarily on politics and non-fiction humor. He is the author of two books: ‘You Want Fries With That?’ and ‘Expeditions en route.’ Both are available on Amazon. He hopes to release another title soon, but that would require his agent to actually do his job, so it may take a while.

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