By Bill Fox/Columnist
With 40 years in front of students, I have often wondered about the value of some of the stuff we teach them, and sadly about some of the subject matter I was taught. Now, with COVID, and the increasing stresses put on students, their parents and teachers to complete the curriculum by the end of June, it is a good idea to investigate what is really a priority in this school year. Is mental health and happiness not more important than grades?
A friend was a high school math department head. He now questions about the math that perhaps should have been taught children instead of what was in the “guidelines.” For example, in my Grade 13 year, I took Algebra, Trigonometry, and Geometry and still wonder to this day what use those subjects ever had for me, other than getting me the required number of credits to graduate from high school. I would have benefitted much more had I ever had a unit on budgeting home income and expenses, and learning about mortgages, credit cards and the greed of banks.
In my view, all students should be taking nutrition and cooking classes, rather than some of the stuff they are taking in science. The suffering and stress I had in my physics and chemistry classes still have me questioning why those subjects were so important. Wouldn’t it have been more useful to study the ingredients of certain foods and to look at additives that can be harmful to healthy, growing bodies? I believe it is more practical for students to study household items, for example, the absorbency and toughness of paper towels, facial tissues, and how they might device tests for that, etc., and to examine the commercials for these products. Would the study of auto mechanics and small motors not also be a useful alternative to physics?
Again, is it not useful for all students to be exposed more to music, art and Phys. Ed. activities for their recreation time later in life? Instead of that, sadly it seems the arts are all being cut back in schools.
Likewise, what are we teaching children about history and geography, and is it really useful for them? I would like to see more history and appreciation of our Indigenous ancestors. In certain areas, it would be advantageous to learn more about the immigrant population of the local inhabitants. A good project for students might be to investigate the history of their ancestors and the geography and history of where their ancestors came from and present that to their classmates.
Geography wise, students would benefit from learning about all our local conservation areas, such as Lynde Shores. What a great field trip it might be for students to experience chickadees feeding from their hands and to see deer and wild turkeys up close.
I know there were times as a teacher I was stressed about finishing the entire course curriculum before the end of June. Really, except perhaps for math, was there really any dire consequence for my students going into the next grade not covering all of the suggested guidelines when advancing on?
Another friend had a position of keeping high school students in school. Some students were lacking success and this sometimes led to low self-esteem and they would drop out. Again, another chance for a course on self-esteem. There are so many opportunities to teach students what might be really useful for them in their future. Social Justice is another area that students could be taught. They might investigate current events such as the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the remains of 215 children were found buried on school’s grounds, which closed in 1978. Or another issue from my experience in the Holy Land could be looking at how the Israel government has allowed settlers to build on Palestinian land.
There is so much to teach our young minds in order for this to be a better world. I’m sure that algebra, geometry, calculus, physics and chemistry has its place being taught to students who are interested in pursuing those subjects, but for the majority, there are better options.
Happiness, contentment and hope would be three goals of education if I called the shots. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org hoping for the best for all students, teachers and parents as we move on from stage 3.