Does the High School Curriculum in the U.S. Actually Prepare Students for the Real World?

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It's 9:30 p.m. I have two tests tomorrow: one in Math and one in World History. I have already spent some time studying for one test, but now it's time to move on to the next subject -- the definition of cramming. The next day will arrive, I will get to my classes and do fairly well on the tests. I manage to get by in high school.

That is the average scenario for the majority of my peers in my school, and in many others throughout the United States. We work just hard enough to get by, but do not retain any of the information. Is that how we should be learning? Essentially, it's pointless.

Teachers give us information, we memorize it, we bubble in the answers on the exams and that's about it. That is the premise of the education system in American schools. Rarely do we have any simulations, internships, or elaborate projects that consist of more than a power-point slide show, debates, or anything of that nature that could help us succeed in the real world.

I cannot blame my teachers. We have to perform well on the New York State Standardized Tests or their jobs can be effected. That is how the saying "teaching to the test" evolved. A few years ago, my school made an attempt to boycott the system. We did not take the test, and our school did not receive its government funding. It's not that we necessarily need the money, but it caused other problems as well.

I have brought this issue to attention several times, but all my teachers say is that it is out of their control. On one of those exams, I wrote a letter to the state legislator proclaiming that these tests are a waste of time and serve no purpose to those who would rather learn more effective life skills. As you can imagine, I got no response.

Many of the problems with our education system do not only apply to the state tests. It has to do with the overall effectiveness of tests in general. For example, my friends and I constantly discuss how we "figured out the system" and how to "B.S." our way through a test. Perhaps, those are the only things we have learned so far from tests.

People, such as you, most likely, will ask me how I would solve this problem. My answer: teach us real skills; create more elective programs such as criminal justice, psychology, classes about the basics of business, more specific science and medical courses, more journalism and writing courses, etc..; bring in guest speakers to work with those subjects; take field trips to those places; and more.

The idea of the five core academic courses: Science, English, Social Studies, Math and Language, is necessary. How in-depth they go is a different story. People only retain the majority of the information taught about the very useless material for a couple of days. Therefore, only teach the important stuff. It would be a lot more efficient to begin the five core classes at an earlier age, rather than in middle school. In addition, in many of my classes we simply review and reiterate information we already know -- a huge waste of time.

I understand that this proposal is a major change and a huge cost -- but education is so important in our world. Imagine what people would be able to accomplish if they were educated about the important aspects of the real world and prepared to actually utilize their education.