Thursday, November 25, 2021

Ask the Blogger: Should every skill taught in public education be coded with an employment skill to verify its validity?

Should every skill taught in public education be coded with an employment skill to verify its validity? 


Why not? 

Well, here are some reasons why not: 

  1. School is not training for a job. School is about teaching all the things that *every* job and life moment has in common, and then allowing students to expand that in certain directions. I'm going to insist that you learn certain math ideas that may only be interesting because they're beautiful, or useful in part in your job or future.
  2. Some skills might not be applicable to employment but rather be foundational to some other, more complex, skill taught in school. Those skills are needed even if they can't be tied to "accounting" or "car mechanic".
  3. “Validity” is a really curious word to apply here because what you think is a valid skill for your employment might be useless to me. My artist friends use proportions - no algebra, ever. How does a teacher know what job you'll be doing and thus what "skill" you'll need? Do I just assume that all boys need math and none of the girls will?
  4. The question “When am I ever gonna have to use this?” is a tired ploy used by lazy teenagers. The answer is always and never. Could be never, could be every day, could be at work, could be your hobby, could be you completely changing your career because of a pandemic or some other unforeseen upheaval.
Skills are an odd thing to focus on because neither I nor the student have the slightest clue what the student will need since none of us has any idea what we’ll be doing, nor do we know what skills we’ll need. 

When I was in HS, the mainframe computer had a whopping 5MB of storage. My first program was holes representing letters punched line by line into cards using Fortran. Many of the skills I learned then have been made obsolete by the supercomputer in my pocket. 

The first job I thought I would be doing for the rest of my life no longer exists. 

If I go by what I see on the internet, spelling and grammar are no longer important, and neither is logic, critical thinking, empathy or sympathy, number sense, morals. Just because *you* don't use it doesn't mean it's useless; it should still be taught even if you can't determine its "validity" to employment. QAnon is a perfect example of a lack of critical thinking.

Some of the most successful people on the planet are utter bastards, their primary skill being a lack of empathy, a total disdain for anyone, and the willingness to screw over anyone and everyone. I have no desire to teach those “valid” skills. 

The incredible tediousness of linking every skill to *every possible application for that skill*, even if you could define exactly when a particular student would need to add or subtract integers. 

Bottom line? I’m teaching and you’re not. I’ve seen lots of “reform” that worked and lots that didn’t, but even more that wasted our time, mponey, and effort while having no noticeable benefit whatsoever.

I’ve seen the long-term effects of curriculum gaps and I’ve seen when what we do is exactly right. As a long-time teacher, I have a very clear sense of “what’s important” and I’ll fight for it. 

I don’t frankly care about uninformed ideas about “what ought to be done” because I’ve seen the aftermath of those bright ideas that weren’t so bright and weren’t original. 

 I do care about the bright ideas that haven’t failed yet. Those I’ll try. 

The problem with your question? We’ve tried it several times and it’s failed to produce any of it's stated benefits every single time.