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Rant on Education February 7, 2007

Posted by sdpurtill in Education, High School, Rants.

I feel like I am stagnating in my “traditional” education at high school right now.

When I can’t see the current/future value in what I am learning, it becomes completely pointless and irrelevant to me. I understand why they want to teach people in Primary School all the concepts and stuff, but the only way you are going to really learn something is if you go out and learn on your own. When I say “learn on your own”, I am talking about picking up books, or going and doing an internship in a field that you want to be in, or simply Googling a subject and finding out everything there is to know about it. I learned more about Silicon Valley working for MonVia in these last few months than any teacher could have ever taught me.

The best way to learn something is just by going out and doing it; book knowledge is good to an extent. I’m not saying that reading isn’t useful — it definitely helps out a lot. I believe that being able to read and synthesizing valuable tangible information will open up more doors for you than anything else you can do while you still young. But I am tired of  “Information Overload“. How is knowing about an Amoeba going to help me when I am out in the real world trying to make a living? Shouldn’t my education be more focused on something tangible? Capitalism? Managing money? How about a course based on Ben Graham’s The Intelligent Investor? At least learning about this stuff will help me put food in my stomach after High School is over.

I am glad for everything I learned up until 8th grade. Then I got into high school and took all these science classes that I could have cared less about (still don’t care for them). I did terribly in all of them (B’s and C’s) because I never saw any value in what I was learning. It was, and still is, useless information to Sam Purtill. I am never going to give a **** about the Periodic Table; it’s not something that I will ever specialize in. I’m sure there are some kids in my school that are fascinated by the Periodic Table and how many electrons are in Plutonium. Great for them, let them take the Science classes (Mrs. Rausch and Mrs. Page are awesome teachers) and let them know that information. When I have a question about Plutonium, I’ll go to them and ask. I don’t need to know everything!!

I am so tired of Information Overload though. It is the result of the internet. I don’t care about EVERYTHING; I’m never going to act like I do.

I do believe there are three things that everyone should be proficient in by the end of High School:

  1. English – writing and speaking
  2. Math – up to Algebra 2
  3. Spanish – this should be taught starting in Kindergarten. Everyone legal US Citizen in California needs to speak Spanish fluently if they want to survive in 15 years

And beyond that, kids should start specializing. They should find something they like and start taking classes in it. I wish there were Java courses. Computer Science courses. Something that I actually care about and would be extremely motivated to do. I garauntee if we had a Computer Science class at my school I would get 100% in it every single semester.

Education needs help: there are three things I want in my education.

  1. Tangible – the instructor should be able to explain to me why I need to know this crap
  2. Valuable – this is going to take me farther in life if I learn it
  3. Relevant – wake up call: this is the 21st century. Would any of this information matter to me now if I went out and got a job?

I don’t like things the way they are.



1. Evan Kincade - February 7, 2007

Almost every day I wonder the same thing. Why am I being taught that if a star collapses in on itself it has the potential to have the same gravitational pull while being a fraction of the size, creating a black hole in space? No matter how interesting that piece of information is, I will never use it in the line of work I will be getting in.
I myself have degraded(or upgraded, depending on your point of view) to the point where I don’t give a rat’s tail about most of the stuff my teachers say. Most of it is rubbish. I pay attention during my English class and Math class. I don’t think we should be forced to learn Spanish, I think we should actually be learning a business language. Who is the U.S.’s greatest trade partner? China. So I personally think that we should be taught Mandarin. Living in California it may seem super important to learn Spanish(living fairly close to the border) but on the East Coast it’s not such a big deal.
I want to learn through hands-on experiences, not book work. Not homework. Because al of that information will slowly slip away and will be forgotten, but your experiences shape you. Screw our school system, it needs reform.

2. Megan King - February 7, 2007

Ok…I to admit it but I’m going to have to agree with you and say that you are right. Throughout school I have been one of those kids that has to have an A in every class so I strive to learn all the pointless information that the teacher throws at me. That’s not a bad thing at all, but because of how the school system is I haven’t learned much that is going to be useful for my future. High schools are in desperate need of reform in order for society to advance. If schools were to become more specific and help kids develop skills in areas that are going to be useful in real life, there is no end to the possibilities. Instead of having a whole bunch of really smart kids trying to memorize the periodic tables, that brain power could be put to much better use doing something that is actually going to make a difference. I wish I could go back and do these past four years over again and instead of focusing on getting A’s in areas of study that don’t matter, I would focus on developing my talents and skills. The world could be so much further along and all it would take is a change in how we do high school.

3. Mario Landeros - February 7, 2007

First let me start off by saying you are half correct. I think you are right about information overload and providing alternatives. We expect our students to be super minicomputers but both teachers and students would be better served if we focused on specific key concepts. You say “It was, and still is, useless information to Sam Purtill. I am never going to give a **** about the Periodic Table” but what do have to realize is that a school is there to support a wide array of students. In your case Sam you are right, the Periodic Table is not going to do you one bit of good. But it is vital for someone who might enter the pharmacetical industry. All the classes you take in high school are just general survey classes. We are introducing all these ideas and at the end of the day hopefully the student are able to realize what is important for themselves. Here is where I tell you that you are right again. If a student at 18 or 14 years of age knows what they want to do for the rest of their life we should absolutely support them but look around your classes and tell me how many students are 100% commited to a career. I think public schools are in dier need of reform and the general point that you make is a important piece. The general idea is that we should provide as many alternatives for our students. There is no “cookie cutter” student so why should we have “cookie cutter” schools and programs. I am just telling you what I think about this issue but you also should realize that I am part of the system so there just may be a bias. So basically don’t trust “The Man.”

4. Chris Milani - February 8, 2007

I completely agree with you. Once I figured out what I wanted to do with my life every class that had no benefit to it seemed pointless and dragging away from knowledge I could actually be gaining. As soon as I decided I wanted to do some type of film editting for a living science, history, and any other non-related class seemed like a waste of time and still do. I understand that those classes may benefit me if I get choosen for “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”, but honestly I doubt it will do me any other good. At the end of a semester you can ask any student a question from the fitrst week of class and 90% of them will probably not know it or care. Many students learn what they need to pass the next exam and as soon as the exam is over dump that “useless” knowledge into there mental trash bin and hit the empty command. Personally I believe that once a student has decided on a career they would like to persue they should be put into something like a vocational school that would just focus on providing you with knowledge you can actually use. Maybe this idea is completely dumb but it seems more reasonable then anything else I’ve ever heard.

5. Michael - February 8, 2007

Nice post buddy. Sadly you’re going to go through the same thing in college if you decide to go…

On the bright side, at least you know what you don’t like now.

6. Dan - February 9, 2007

Stop whining you!

p.s. Physics is phun!!!

7. PFAA - February 10, 2007

Dear Mr.Purtill
I am deeply bewildered on why you are not pro Amoeba?? Amoeba itself is found in freshwater typically on decaying vegetation from streams, but is not especially common in nature. However, because of the ease with which they may be obtained and kept in the lab, they are common objects of study, both as representative protozoa and to demonstrate cell structure and function.
I am the leader of PFAA (People For Amoeba Acknowledgment) Knowing about Amoeba is NOT a waste of time! Our organization meets every day to get the word of Amoeba out there! Next time your in your science class learning about Amoeba; sit up and pay attention. I hope next time you blog you remember Amoeba and all that it does for this world.

8. emily - March 6, 2007

hahaha, what does informing about amoeba have anything to do with this post?!

9. emily - March 6, 2007

And i comletely agree with you sam. High school is so redundant and mostly pointless. It’s great for the kids that have know idea what direction they’d like to go in, but i think that we should have an option of going to college or a vocational school. It would save a lot of time, for me personally and several others.

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