A friend sent me this today, reminding me that so much of enforced education is pointless.
Our history syllabus was “The Spanish Conquest of the Americas.”
Geography concentrated around the Orinoco Basin and deltas somewhere or other. We traced maps.
Nothing actually happened in chemistry lessons. Nothing went ‘bang’ or lit up in colours. Lessons consisted of trying to learn the chemical symbols for elements.
I was never able to understand what physics did.
I couldn’t sing.
I couldn’t draw, paint, sculpt or embroider.
I wasn’t any good at gym.
Maths, geometry, algebra, trigonometry were all double-Dutch.
I didn’t believe in religion.
Week after week, term after term, for 11 years I sat, with my classmates, glassy-eyed, bored, bewildered, and I was not alone. Many of us read comics on our laps while glancing at our watches every two minutes to see whether it was time for the bell that would signal escape from one set of metaphorical handcuffs so we could trundle down a corridor into another
punishment block classroom. The whole thing seemed designed around control rather than personal growth and development. No talking in the dining room; no walking on the grass; no running; no hands in pockets; no taking your hat off in the street. Why? Why wasn’t it fun instead?
There were two classes that inspired me. English and French. I was good at both and would have happily studied languages all day, every day, in preference to any other subjects.
I have never since used algebra or geometry, nor have I ever needed or wanted to know about the Orinoco basin, what causes light refraction, why the Spanish needed to conquer the South American natives. I’ve never needed to balance on a narrow bar two feet off the ground, vault over a wooden horse, dangle by my heels from terrifyingly high wall bars or play a recorder. Nevertheless, all those things were compulsory.
In short, apart from English and French, the whole thing was a wicked waste of time, for which I point the finger firstly at the system, and secondly at teachers who were blatantly as disinterested as their pupils, reading in a monotone from books clearly written for the treatment of insomnia. I’ve often wondered why the system isn’t geared to let children channel their energies at an early age into those subjects that do appeal to them, in order that their education can be tailored to inspiring them so that lessons become a pleasure rather than a chore, and when they leave school, they will be equipped and motivated to follow a career.
No offence intended to those teachers I know face a difficult and often thankless task into which they put their hearts, souls, passion and many unpaid hours. At least two of my friends are teachers and I know they love their work and imagine that a class with them is a treat for their pupils. If only they’d been around when I needed them.
I will never use algebra.