It is challenging to determine what public schools are spending per student to educate our children. It is certainly safe to say A LOT (Go here for an idea of what a lot likely means). As a general rule, college tuition increases at about twice the rate of general inflation (go here for recent numbers) and current rates range from twelve to twenty-nine thousand dollars a year. With the massive amounts of money being spent on education, I would like to think that students are being provided with the most critical knowledge they need to succeed. But is that really the case?
I am not arguing that things like reading, writing, math, science and history aren’t necessary. In fact, I regularly find myself wishing the “AP” American history class I took in high school had actually provided me with some knowledge of American history (The teacher lectured almost exclusively on his opinion of what the word ‘history’ meant and the final exam had only one question: “What does the word history mean?”). And certainly, going to college provides book knowledge students wouldn’t otherwise have (I know I must remember something from that Russian lit class I took as a freshman).
But what about the practical skills we all need? Such as: How to communicate an idea clearly and succinctly. How to bring up a dissenting opinion in a way that allows for discussion. How to be a successful leader. Or how to inspire others to greatness through teamwork. If the $2 billion spent worldwide on executive coaching is any indication, those skills are pretty important. So why aren’t they being taught in schools?
The simple answer is they just never have been and therefore they aren’t. But everyone knows “because we have always done it that way” isn’t a valid reason to continue doing something. The more likely reason is that no one working in schools has any idea how to go about teaching communication and conflict resolution skills. Those skills aren’t something you find in a textbook, lecture about to pound the facts home and then give a multiple choice exam that can be graded by a machine to make sure the information can be regurgitated. Instead, communication and conflict resolution require tell-show-practice-repeat training, not unlike how athletes are trained or students are taught to type.
I for one believe it is time we start to spend some of the billions and billions of dollars churning around in the education system to provide students (and even teachers) with a practical foundation of communication and conflict resolution skills. Why in the world are we leaving something so basic up to chance and luck by making every child reinvent the wheel? The skills and how to teach them are available. We simply have to get them into schools.