Public Education Stunts Development

Four nights a week I tutor high school students in math. Four nights a week I am both exhilarated and flabbergasted regarding the next generation of adults. On the one hand, I believe that all of these students have something special and valuable to offer humanity. On the other hand, they are being forced to study material that keeps them from realizing their potential.

Of the three students that I currently work with, two already have an idea of what they want to do for a living.

One wants to be a beautician. She has already decided that she isn’t going to go to college. She wants to go to beauty school. I fully support her in that decision. If she is passionate about hair and makeup, that is exactly what she should focus on. Last time I checked, there was no shortage of women wanting to look pretty. Something tells me that this student will do just fine for herself in that industry.

The only beef that I have with her plans is that she wants to grind out these math classes in order to finish high school. Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to have the work and I enjoy teaching her. But the reality is that these math classes are a huge waste of time for her.

She is forced to take and pass advanced math classes because public school curriculums are uniform.In her district all high school graduates must study the exact same math. 99% of them will never use anything past algebra 1. 90% of them will never use anything past basic arithmetic.

Yet she is being subjected to something she clearly has no interest in and that will not help her with her career. There is no question in my mind that she has the intelligence to be a whiz at math. There is also no question in my mind that she never will be. She is passionate about making women look hot. Why shouldn’t she start focusing on that right away?

Further, wouldn’t a basic business accounting course be of much greater benefit than graphing x and y values on a coordinate plane? I can tell just from being around her that she’ll want to have her own business some day. She’ll be a very successful hair-dresser and makeup artist. She’ll want to open up her own shop. She’ll have no idea how to keep books. Maybe one of her partners will screw her over and she’ll have no way to detect it.

Had she been taught rudimentary business accounting instead of some abstract math course, she’d be in much better shape. If the accounting teacher was good, he’d tie it back to the real world and get her thinking about the financial implications of cutting hair. What to do about tips? How to record chair rentals to other beauticians? Should make-up be put in inventory or should it be expensed?

But even better than being forced to stay in high school, there should be an easy way for her to test out. I would highly encourage her to study for the high school equivalency exam, take the test, pass it, stop spending her days in boring classes and start spending her time in salons where she can learn her trade.

The second case is a young lady who already knows she wants to be a psychologist. She even knows the specific field she wants to be in: criminal justice. Her mother also wanted to be a psychologist but didn’t finish the coursework because of a statistics class. Apparently the math taught in statistics was too challenging and the mother decided that it wasn’t worth it.I can’t say that I blame her.

Although I did well in statistics, I considered dropping out of every single college math course that I took. It was hard and there just didn’t seem to be a point to it. The only reason I use any of that math now is to help poor high school students struggle through their classes.

Knowing that statistics is really hard and knowing that it will be a challenging obstacle someday, you’d think that this young lady would want to get a jump on it now.

Why shouldn’t she just skip every other math class and spend her entire high school math experience studying only statistics? It is the only math requirement for her career.

After four years of high school she could be a stone cold expert. If she has a hard time with it as a freshman, she’d be better as a sophomore. By the time she was a senior, she’d be ready to be a true force in her chosen field. Further, in college she’d be prepared to study the finer points of her profession instead of struggling through the math and potentially abandoning the field altogether.

But instead of that scenario, I’m tutoring her in trigonometry.  Almost nobody uses trigonometry. Perhaps there are some engineers scattered throughout the world who need to know a sin or a tan. But those people are very rare. This student is certainly not going to be one of those people. You don’t need to know anything about triangles to study the criminal mind.

I’d recommend to her parents that she test out of high school right now. She should take statistics classes at community collage and nothing else until she masters statistics. Then and only then, should she think about going to a university.

Actually, even better than a four year school would be a specialty school with a criminal justice track. A lot of these specialty schools have recruiters coming around all the time looking to hire students. Plus, why should the parents pay tens of thousands of dollars for a liberal arts education that has no bearing on the daughter’s profession? In all honesty, anybody can get a good liberal arts education for free at their local library.

Unfortunately, nobody seems to even be considering the alternatives. Even if my recommendations were to be rejected, it would be good for parents and students to at least have options.

Too much emphasis is placed on going through the steps and having your ticket stamped. High School, check. College, check. Next thing you know, you’re in the real world and you have no marketable skills.

Shouldn’t young people be spending time doing what they love? Shouldn’t they be obtaining knowledge that will help them be independent, happy, and productive in the near future?

Quadratic equations and trigonometry are stunting the development of our future make-up artists and criminal justice professionals. Lets release that human energy instead of keeping it couped up in a stuffy classroom studying irrelevant material.

Parents and future parents, I urge you to think outside the box. The future of your children and of our world will be better for it.



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