School didn’t teach me to do my taxes: Sad emoticons

An old high school friend of mine posted this video the other day.  It’s a good laugh, but overall I disagree with it.  It’s like many memes you have seen posted on Facebook about the ineffectiveness of school at teaching everyday life skills that people need.  My friend asks for people’s thoughts and as educator I wanted to echo mine, which is basically that just because school doesn’t teach you how to do your taxes, or how to garden, or even knowledge that is directly applicable to your current life or future life, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable.  Rather than go into a lengthy discussion about how school subjects are applicable I will simply say this.  First, are schools meant to teach you everyday practical skills?  Should there not be a place that teaches you thinks you would likely not learn about anywhere else?  Second, in addition to learning, you are also learning how to learn.  A whole lot of different stuff too.  And in life you have to learn a whole lot of different stuff all the time.  And thirdly, another thought I like was given by a speaker talking to the students in our program when he asked a student “Is there anything that you ever learned that you didn’t use right away, but later on you found came in quite handy?”.  Invariably the student said yes, and I think anybody can answer yes to that question.  It’s quite possible that no knowledge is actually useless.

I think though that it is a valid question to ask.  What about all this other stuff that one has to know that has nothing to do with the things you learn at school  How do we acquire these skills?  I was pondering the question today because those memes that say school doesn’t teach you anything useful sort of annoy me and could never really figure out why, but perhaps have hit on a couple of things.  First, we should perhaps get out of this mindset that school is the only place where you can learn stuff?  Most people who I know learned to be handy, learned to garden, learned sewing, etc, didn’t get it from school but got it from home.  More than that if you aren’t finding school fun, then why aren’t you spending your time out of school exploring the things that interest you.  You have the time.  And while play is important, exploring something that you want to explore might actually feel like play.  And if your parents don’t know how to do a lot of stuff, is it the schools job to fill in all the gaps in knowledge your parents don’t have?  That seems like an unfair burden to place on a school system that is already playing parent in a lot of other ways for working families.  But I am sure if someone is resourceful they could find someone who gardens, or someone who can show somebody how to do their taxes.  Before I left home I volunteered to do the family laundry for a few months because I knew once I was living on my own I’d have to do it so I should probably learn.  Again, school isn’t the only time and place for learning.

The other thing I thought about was that even though I love the “jack-of-all-trades” kind of person, the reality is that civilization trends away from such people.  The birth of civilization from farming gave people who didn’t have to grow the food free time to pursue other activities and people specialized.  Even in hunter-gatherer tribes there had to be some people who were faster, had better eyesight, were wiser, etc.  People had specialties and civilization has allow that to simply grow over the years.  We hate ironing, and a friend of ours loves to iron, and said he’d iron for us if we cooked him several days of Indian food, and we love to cook and our good at it.  So specializing doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it just means that you have to be fairly competent at something.  And that way through what you’re good at, you can then pay someone to do your taxes or just buy vegetables at your farmers market.

In my experience those that are good at school, can pick up other things they need to learn relatively quickly.  The key is to just to learn to love learning and never stop. 🙂

8 thoughts on “School didn’t teach me to do my taxes: Sad emoticons

  1. Maybe it’s because I come from a rural area where farming and agriculture are important to our economy but our public schools here do teach about gardening and livestock both as electives and as extra curricular activities. I do think it’s important to teach life skills because every child isn’t college or university material. Does that make them less valuable? Absolutely not. Having said that, schools cannot and should not be responsible for teaching your child every.single.thing. If a child’s school doesn’t teach gardening and, as a parent, a person thinks it’s important, why aren’t they teaching their child how to garden? In times past, when people actually did garden and raise livestock there was no need to teach that in school because they learned every day doing their chores how to do those practical things.

    Personally, I think parents should be giving their children practical, common sense, education while school should be designated for higher forms of learning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Ruth! It’s been awhile since you’ve blogged! I hope your visit with your UK family ended up going well. 🙂

      I agree with you. I think there are certainly ways to incorporate some more practical stuff into the classroom. I do remember learning about growing vegetables in science class when we learned about botany, earth science can talk about soils, there could be more math examples involving taxation, etc. And certainly there can additional classes designed for specific regions as in your case, and I think that’s great. But it’s likely with all the farmers already in your community it probably wouldn’t be hard to learn it outside of school either! 🙂

      But yes, my main point, as you said is that schools can’t teach children everything, and nor should they have to when there are other places to learn things. Perhaps one thing schools could do more is to help students who want to learn other skills find other places to learn those skills. Maybe work with the community so that hey let’s say I want to build a deck and I know carpentry pretty well, but on my own it’s a difficult job. The local high school has some kids who want to learn and they can spend a few hours on the weekend learning and developing some skills. Something like that doesn’t seem too unreasonable. Of course many Industrial Arts and Home Economics programs have been cut in schools too, which goes back to public schools being underfunded in general.


  2. School teaches you math and reading skills so you can follow the instructions on how to do your taxes. I was 19 when I filed for the first time and I had no other assistance except the instructions. I filled out the short form. Now we have Turbo Tax, etc.

    While schools should always be working towards keeping up with our ever-changing world, I agree that schools should not be solely responsible for preparing students for adulthood. I learned valuable skills that helped me secure a full time job and benefits, with the government right out of high school. I moved 2000 miles away from home, alone.

    High school, for the most part, didn’t quench my thirst for knowledge, but I still learned enough to become independent and make a decent living at the time. What he’s advocating in the video (don’t stay in school) is irresponsible, IMO.

    I like what you said at the end of your post, that the key is to just learn to love learning and never stop.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. I actually wrote that in my previous post, but you know me, I tend to be the queen of lengthy comments when I’m interested in a subject, and thought that maybe I had gone a tad OT by expounding. What I deleted was that I think schools shouldn’t focus so much on test scores (memorization), but unfortunately, that’s the way the system is set up for funding. It’s not the teachers fault. Today, high schools offer a lot more subjects than they did when I was in high school.

        Liked by 1 person

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