High school: the incomplete guide to the real world


Trevor Crowell, Managing Editor

Le Chatelier’s Principle can be used to predict the effect of a change in conditions on a chemical equilibrium. As you’ve probably guessed, this law has absolutely nothing to do with this article. Seeing as I don’t plan on becoming a chemist, this also doesn’t have anything to do with my future career, and yet I spent hours trying to master this concept at school. This begs the million dollar question: why?

Why do we, in school, spend hours laboring over the scrupulous principles and topics that we will learn once, then proceed to never use again? In my mind, that question remains to be answered.
I am a strong believer in the importance of education. I think that it’s necessary and that what we learn in school sets the stage for how we live the rest of our lives. However, it is because I believe this that I also notice the many gaping holes in the traditional high school system that hinders a high school student from being successful after they graduate.

By no means am I trying to say that what we learn in school everyday is irrelevant. We need to know about our past, which we learn in history. We need to know about how to develop a strong argument, which we learn in English. We even need to have basic number sense, which we learn in various math classes.

All of these skills are imperative to our success as human beings, but when it comes down to it, there is a surplus of more beneficial subjects that students could be devoting their time to learning.

The goal of high school should not be to teach every student what happened on any given date in history, or how to correctly balance chemical equations. The goal of high school should be to make sure students are prepared to be fully functional adults when they graduate.

This does not necessarily mean teaching each and every student the ins and outs of one specific job that they may work in their future—that is what college is for. It means ensuring that when a senior graduates from Sequoia, he or she is prepared to carry him or herself in the real world.

It seems that, over time, high school has become less about learning important life skills and more about learning what colleges want their students to know. While it is important for a high school to assist its students in getting into and doing well in college in whatever way it can, it is equally important for the high school to provide a student with the fundamental tools for life, both simple and complex.

Why is it that our high school gives us a lesson on the difference between eustress and distress (thanks freshman year Life Skills, I’ll be sure to put that information to use later in life), but doesn’t bother to teach us how to do our taxes or give us a lesson in money management? Why is it that we spend hours learning the quadratic formula, but not a single second on how to apply for a job?

Sure, some of us come from fortunate backgrounds and have parents, relatives, friends and even the occasional teacher who have been willing to teach us these basic, yet integral skills. But for those students who are not so lucky to have someone to show them the ropes, it appears that, as of right now, they are out of luck.

Is that really what we want to be telling Sequoia graduates? Do we really want to be saying “Congratulations, you’re done with high school, now let us throw you out into the real world, hopefully you find a way to apply the Pythagorean Theorem somehow?”

I’ve done some unusual things in my life, but never have I seen a triangular figure, magically determined two of its side lengths, and then experienced the burning desire to find the third. Maybe it’s just me.

On the other hand, what I have seen is other people needing to learn important life skills on the fly because they were not taught them in school. Whether it is home/auto repair, making a professional resume or even addressing and mailing a letter, the list of things we could, and really should, be learning is endless.

The problem is that this issue cannot be solved only by changing something at Sequoia. In order for this problem to be eliminated, schools across the country have to work towards being less focused on getting their students to college, and more focused on preparing their students for the real world.

In an age where the classroom is dominated by discussions on the latest and greatest in math, science and English, what we really should be talking about are the fundamentals of living. Students need to be prepared when they leave after their four years of high school, so let’s shake things up a bit, and start using the classroom to talk about what will actually have a sizable impact on our lives.