Students, Meet the Real World

For four years during high school, we learn the principles of science and math. How to solve for x in a polynomial equation. But as a volunteer engineer for a manufacturing factory during my sophomore year, I found that the typical high school curriculum is just not enough to prepare students for the real world. Our schools have become too old-fashioned. Today, success in the real world is not about memorizing the periodic table or the quadratic equation. It’s not about studying for hours the night before a test to get a 100 percent, then forget it all the next week.

School should be about how to apply these sciences and arts to the real world. In the real world, if you need to know something for your job, you look it up online. High school shouldn’t focus so much on memorization; we can leave that work to machines that are better at it. It would be impossible and unnecessary for a person to memorize all the information the Internet has to offer. However it is important for students to learn how to quickly access information online and apply it to real-world situations. Now that I’ve had a taste of the real world, I believe high school and college should be more hands-on and based on applied sciences.

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I think as more of our generation enter the real world, they will agree. To learn the most important working skills, students can job shadow, volunteer in their intended industry, or tinker with things themselves, such as computers, mechanics, art, or even manage activities and events. But with seven hours of school plus sports and homework, who has the time for independent study? These skills really belong in school. Classes in high school should revolve around career fields such as scientific research, health care, engineering, business, arts, and communication (teaching and politics). This would help us choose careers we are actually interested in. Each class should open its doors and let education meet reality by applying what they teach to real-world scenarios.

In English classes, companies could give business letters and documents to students for proofreading. Classes could collectively write movie and book reviews, columns on current events and issues, and post them online. Teachers could supervise their students’ work to make sure it meets professional standards. In science classes, students should experiment and discover. As a class, re-create real-world scientific experiments, monitor water quality in local rivers and lakes, and test companies’ products for safety and areas of improvement. Analyze samples sent in by scientists and give input.

Measure the sound waves of our favorite music. Get involved in the scientific community. Businesses, the environment, the public, and students would all benefit. In math classes, teachers should find ways for students to apply their lessons to the real world. As a class, calculate sports statistics and animal populations. Solve real-world problems sent in by engineers and architects.

Classes could monitor real estate, stock market behavior, and do accounting. In history classes, students should learn by contributing to society. As a class, interview the older adults and document their experiences. We should study the past and write articles to help people understand current situations and influence opinions. In art classes, we should be artists.

Classes should paint custom pictures and sculpt artwork for people’s homes. Cook, invent, give input on recipes, and run a restaurant at school. Build custom furniture to sell for just the price of materials. Design posters and advertising media. If high schools (and colleges) could include these activities and embrace the principle of applying what they teach, students would be much better prepared for the real world. This would not only benefit schools, but the world.

Schools would graduate better employees and managers, sell quality products created by students, and put taxpayer funding to even better use. Schools would become more like government-funded labs, workshops, and research centers. Students should leave school prepared for the real world. Anything less is time wasted.