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Old 02-05-2010, 04:43 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 870
Does anyone here basically feel as though they learned nothing in school?

This is mainly directed at those who attended American public schools, but it could also be answered by those who attended non-American or private schools.

I don't really feel as though I learned anything in school. I guess, upon closer examination, I feel as though I did, in fact, learn a few particular things, but I really did not learn anything other than how to spell in kindergarten.

Things I did not learn in school:
- I did not learn to read in school.
- I learned almost nothing about mathematics in school.
- I did not learn anything about history in school that I did not already know.
- I learned almost nothing about literature in school. I did read certain books for classes, but I did not really learn anything about literature in any broader sense.

Looking back, I basically feel as though I didn't learn anything in school. I'd like to know if anyone else feels that way.

Edit: I am speaking of kindergarten through high school.

Last edited by The Bith Shuffle; 02-05-2010 at 04:44 AM.
Old 02-05-2010, 05:09 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 235
Dude, yes. I really feel I could have skipped high school entirely with no adverse educational effects. I often discuss this with people at length, in fact, until they remember pressing engagements elsewhere.

Not so much primary school - I feel primary school was a fairly useful diversion, and I definitely learned about tadpoles, times tables, and how to execute a passable forward roll (although, actually I was in a private gymnastics class for a lot of primary school, so scratch that. I may have honed my forward rolls).

High school, though? Fuck high school. In high school I took French for five years. I can't speak French. Votre sur le bicyclette, yeah? I don't think I need to go on, but I shall. I played approximate hockey for five years; I don't know the rules. We seemingly watched Schindler's List at every opportunity - for R.E., for English, for History, and once - I swear - for Maths. Any challenging book I read I brought in myself. Equations of any flavour? No idea. I basically agree on all points.

And I was a "good" kid - bright, receptive, Marks & Spencers blazer, not pregnant in the third year, not building a bong in woodwork. I wanted to learn stuff; I just didn't.
Old 02-05-2010, 05:37 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Cheshire, UK (since 2006)
Posts: 5,014
Attended school in New Zealand. I learned a lot. A whole lot. I'm flummoxed by how someone couldn't, but maybe schooling is much better in New Zealand? I don't know.

I mean, you didn't learn any mathematics at school? Just to take one example, you didn't learn the concepts of medians, means, averages, modes, and the subtle (or not so subtle) differences between them?

Maybe you and I are talking about different definitions of learning. I'm talking about the aquisition of skills, knowledge and understanding.
Old 02-05-2010, 05:49 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Wayne, MI
Posts: 1,638
Man, I'm glad I didn't go to the schools of the first two posters. I mean my schooling was dull and tedious at times but to feel that you learned absolutely nothing all thirteen years? That's sad to me.
Old 02-05-2010, 06:02 AM
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Not very many useful things.
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Old 02-05-2010, 06:22 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 235
Five years for me, not thirteen. I think primary school was pretty useful. High school, however, was a dead loss. Absolutely. I'm angry about it. It wasn't a bad school, apparently, either - it had governors and funding and Bunsen burners and so on - it just seemed to be consistently aiming at the lowest common denominator, both through the curriculum and the attitude of the teachers themselves.

I don't mean to give the impression that I was so much of a screaming intellectual for high school - I wasn't - but I had reasonable - normal! - curiosity and intellectual drive for a kid, so I don't feel school was much of a source of new information, no.

Originally Posted by sandra_nz
Just to take one example, you didn't learn the concepts of medians, means, averages, modes, and the subtle (or not so subtle) differences between them?
Were they raised at any point? Sure.
But are they in my head now, and did I understand the concepts at the time, and did I learn them? No.

Take something like apostrophe use, as a further example. This was never raised - I know how to place an apostrophe because I learned it outside the school. Nobody ever taught me. I don't mean to give the impression that we didn't do anything in schools, or that concepts weren't alluded to, but I've never had any moment of "Good grief, I understand that!" in an educational establishment. Anything I know - to my probably now limited adult remembering, granted - I either knew before, or discovered elsewhere. nikonikosuru is right, it is sad.
Old 02-05-2010, 06:59 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 761
Wow, I'm really surprised with this, I went to highschool in the Netherlands and pretty much everything I know (or at least, everything I knew when going to college), I learned in highschool. Everything about maths, economics, history.
Old 02-05-2010, 07:12 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Cheshire, UK (since 2006)
Posts: 5,014
Very sad indeed.

Why do you think it is?

Is it because the schools are only interested in getting their pupils to pass tests?

I don't know much about the schooling system in the US and pretty much what I do know is based on what I've seen on television, but it does seem to me that the US is very keen on 'testing' its students throughout their entire school life. That would encourage teaching that results in good grades as opposed to good understanding.
Old 02-05-2010, 07:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 182
I reckon it's not too wild an exaggeration to say that up to about the age of 14 the primary purposes of school are (a) somewhere to keep the kids off the streets and out of adults' hair while they go about their business, and (b) for kids to learn social skills.
I don't think I learned a huge amount of useful stuff at primary or middle school. After the age of 16, when we do pre-university level studies here, we did cover a lot of stuff that I wouldn't have worked out for myself.

Last edited by nudgenudge; 02-05-2010 at 07:18 AM. Reason: Aparently I should have paid more attention to the "apostrophe use" stuff that wolf-alice mentions
Old 02-05-2010, 07:56 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 235
Oh yes, I didn’t mention that I’m in the UK. I think there are similarities, though.

Passing tests definitely came into it – I remember lots of Sir, will this be on the exam?, where an answer in the negative justified not bothering to absorb it, or to teach it. That’s a terrible attitude for anyone to have, both for teachers and for pupils.

Also I’m just the wrong personality type for the system, I guess. I expect lots of people were. I’m naturally quiet – or I was! – and somewhat reticent, and the sort of person who wasn’t comfortable asking questions in front of an audience. There’s a bit of a sad culture of “thick is cool” in UK high schools, too – I certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone if I knew something already, so I was never pushed.

And really, the lowest common denominator was low. Classes were streamed in later years, but for the first three you were in with very deprived kids who couldn’t read. As in, no hyperbole here, could not read. The school had a programme where the able elder pupils – me – sat with the less able at lunch times and hand-held through the cat sat on the mat. I am not making this up.

The streaming was badly handled, too – I wouldn’t know a quadratic equation if it carjacked me, you know? But I was quiet and nicely spoken, so into Set One I went. Sink Estate Sarah with the second-hand uniform? Set Five with the other write-offs, although who knows how bright Sarah actually was. So neither of us gets the support we need, but it’s easier for the administration. This was in 1994 – 1999, by the way.

Amazing as this sounds, this wasn’t a bad school. I chose to go there. It churned out a steady stream Oxbridge candidates as well as burger flippers. It just didn’t work for some people.
Old 02-05-2010, 08:14 AM
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"For all the time
they stole from me
my teachers could have
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Old 02-05-2010, 08:40 AM
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I learned a lot of maths. Though I haven't used very much of it since.

I learned a fair amount of science, though I can't remember much, as my teachers were monumental bores.

I didn't learn much in English, but I was given free reign to write, and the guidance provided for that was invaluable.

I didn't learn much in History, because it tended to be localised, and as New Zealand was barely 150 years old, and pre-that was almost exclusively oral history, it was limited. It was like telling us about what it was like when the electricity was out.

I definitely didn't learn much about computers. As a teen during the home computer revolution, my friends and I knew more than my teachers did.

There was some amount of Social Studies that was sort of semi-interesting, but it was either so general as to be obvious, or so specific as to never apply to me, that I don't think it mattered much.

Yeah, I gotta say that apart from rare fundamentals, there wasn't much of use for me.
Old 02-05-2010, 08:51 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 16,578

I think most people who claim this or feel this are greatly exaggerating.

"Learning nothing" in school implies this: That every test you took could have been given to you before the material was covered in class and you would do as well on that test as the one given to you after the material had been covered. For most people, I don't think so.

If you don't remember anything you learned or think it was useless information, thats a whole nother thing.

And even IF your classes and teachers were that lame, if you werent striving to take all the hardest classes and utilize the library and computer lab resources its your own fault you didnt "learn anything". And if you were THAT much of a wizkid, get out early, push to be advanced a grade or three, kick butt on some standardized tests and start community college.

I think this feeling is mostly an adult echo of that stupid teenager mindset that they already know everything, the teachers are stupid, and all the stuff they are learning is useless and waste of time, because, you know, they have important REAL learning to do back somewhere else.
Old 02-05-2010, 09:33 AM
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: South Carolina
Posts: 24,534
Honestly, if you didn't learn anything in school then either you were very poorly served by your educational system (possible, but not as likely as some people on this board would have you think) or you didn't apply yourself. Generally speaking, in most education experiences you get out what you put in. What did you put in?
Old 02-05-2010, 09:35 AM
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I learned only one thing in my last three years of high school: journalism. It was the only thing that that loser of a school could do correctly. I had transferred from an excellent school district with a real advanced placement program to a loser school with the ridiculous mission statement that "all kids can learn" and an inneffective outcome based education philosophy. What the bullshit meant in practice was there was no advanced placement, everyone was in the same stupid-person English class, and teaching was done to the level of the lowest common denominator, because "all kids" -- even the stupid ones -- can learn. It also didn't help that I'd come from a real four year high school to a three year high school. I'd started all my high school classes the previous year. By time my senior year came along, I had nothing left to study, and had all of the requirements met at the end of the first semester, and those stupid bastards still wouldn't graduate me. My senior year curriculum: swimming, journalism, jazz band, symphonic band, Spanish I, German III, French I, and Pascal.
Old 02-05-2010, 09:50 AM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Iowa
Posts: 1,692
What year did you graduate? I only wonder if the experience of it being worthless is from more recent graduates, who had to deal with the No Child Left Behind thing. I graduated in 1992, and I felt like I learned quite a bit. I did very well in school and was in a lot of advanced classes, so maybe that was part of it too.
Old 02-05-2010, 10:01 AM
The Turtle Moves!
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
Honestly, if you didn't learn anything in school then either you were very poorly served by your educational system (possible, but not as likely as some people on this board would have you think) or you didn't apply yourself. Generally speaking, in most education experiences you get out what you put in. What did you put in?

"I didn't learn a thing" means a) you are exceedingly hyperbolic, b) you have zero memory capacity, c) you are deluding yourself, d) you are lying, both to yourself and to others. Any or all of the previous, in varying percentages. Anyone who wants to learn can learn, under any circumstances. You failed yourself, the system didn't fail you.
Old 02-05-2010, 10:32 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: under a pile of kitties
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I graduated in 2000 and I feel like I learned quite a lot. Every day when I walk past Alexander Hamilton's grave site or wander by the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd I am reminded of history, english, music, and literature classes I took in High School. Heck, two days ago I was talking with a coworker and we were complaining about working for 40 hours a week and I just started laughing. She asked what was so funny and I told her I was remembering the stuff I learned in high school about working conditions in the US 100-200 years ago. I was remembering Upton Sinclair, the institution of child labor laws and the origin of unionized labor and thinking that after all those people fought tooth and nail for us to have 40 hour work weeks and safe, comfortable working environments we are still bitching that we have it too hard. All of that was remembered from my high school history classes.

Even the stuff that you never thought would have any use can come in handy sometimes. I remember going to a play at my college and talking with some of the crew members afterwards and saying, "Your set design reminded me a lot of Louise Nevelson's more popular works. Was she the inspiration for your set?" and having them all stare at me, slack-jawed. When they said, "How in the world did you know that?" my response was, "I studied her in art class last year."
Old 02-05-2010, 10:39 AM
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 5,391
Oh yeah, I learned tons. Was it hard and difficult? Largely no - I was considered a "gifted" student and probably could have been challenged more. I rarely had homework and got mostly straight As (or top marks, for non-US readers). Have I forgotten a lot of it? Probably - I graduated from high school 15 years ago, and the stuff I know now has been supplemented so much with university classes and self-study that I'm not sure I could separate out what I learned when.

I agree that it's a bit of a stretch to get out of the basic core education set (years 1 - 12) without having learned anything.
Old 02-05-2010, 10:50 AM
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 2,691
Most significantly, I took a typing class my senior year. The ability to be a fast, accurate touch typist is a skill I use on a daily basis, especially at work.

In elementary school, I have clear memories of learning: homonyms (we had a cute pair/pear tree where we matched up those types of words), fractions, lesser than/greater than (adorable crocodile mouths!), how to figure the area of a circle (including definitions of radius, pi etc), I could go on and on.

In high school, I have clear memories of learning various works of Shakespeare (can still quote passages from several plays), French (I later got a degree in French Language & Literature in college), direct objects, how to diagram a sentence, lots and lots of vocabulary words (I had a teacher who adored weekly vocabulary tests), genetics (we had a year long experiment breeding fruit flies), how to factor an equation (which I showed a kid a few months ago, so it stuck), the angles of a triangle = 180 degrees, Avogadro's number = 6.023 10 to the 23, how to play a flute (band!) etc etc etc.

I am a trainer/technical writer - I owe a lot of my success to my very strong background in writing/grammar.

Can you really get through 12 years of school and learn NOT ONE THING? Not one?

Last edited by Glory; 02-05-2010 at 10:53 AM.
Old 02-05-2010, 10:53 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 235
I'm interested, silenus - do you consider the class of illiterate eleven year olds in my example to have failed themselves, or do you concede a problem in the system in that instance?
Old 02-05-2010, 10:58 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Chicago
Posts: 327
wolf-alice, you're cracking me up!

I would say that I learned plenty in school, but it was distributed pretty sparsely. I probably could have learned twice as much in half the time elsewhere.
Old 02-05-2010, 10:59 AM
The Turtle Moves!
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Nope. That sounds like a complete failure of the system. But even under those circumstances, if a child wanted to learn, they could find a way. Happens all the time. Did the system make it a lot harder, and so discourage most from trying? Looks like, in this case, if you are relating things completely. But even then, I'd be willing to wager a substantial amount (up to 1.35 Euros!) that there were a majority of your fellow students who would answer the OP differently than you did.
Old 02-05-2010, 11:13 AM
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Location: UK
Posts: 235
Dude, all children want to learn (barring, since this is the internet, the example of an honest-to-Christ sociopath which Im sure is about to be raised). It's the default setting for a child. It is.

Also, listen. Case in point. I know nothing, literally nothing, about History. No dates, no kings, no battles, no concept of continuity, and I took this to GCSE level (and I got a B). History was primarily concerned about sources - determining primary and secondary sources, and their reliability - and really, that seemed to be it. We watched a lot of videos. We watched Braveheart once. And look - I'm fourteen, yes? I'm here in a History class. I get good marks. I'm learning History, right? It's only with adult hindsight that I think; hang on, that wasnt so good. What would you have had me do?

How am I, at an ignorant fourteen, supposed to assess the quality of what I'm learning?

And how is a child supposed to know what is available for them to learn?
Old 02-05-2010, 11:39 AM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 13,904
I guess I was lucky. I learned a ton of stuff in high school. Some of it was actually useful and still gets used today. Some of it didn't sink in until later, like the part about all the rich shits that made my life a living hell were actually miserable themselves and were trying to make themselves feel better by dumping on me because I was smarter than they were.
Old 02-05-2010, 12:16 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: The Midcon
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Public school, northeastern US, 1980's-early 90's. Pre-standardized testing.

I think I learned a lot in K-8: reading, writing, math (including 'light' statistics and geometry), general science, US history and government. The omission of foreign language was incredibly short-sighted in retrospect. There was also a puzzling emphasis on penmanship, which we worked on daily for 5 years.

High school was more hit and miss. The one year self-contained classes, like the sciences and history, were generally very good and allowed me to ace the first 2 semesters of the equivalent courses in college. The classes that were taught as a 4 year series, like math and english, did not build much on what we already had learned. Again, there were strange decisions about what to teach: no calculus, but 2 years spent on seemingly nothing but quadratic equations. Foreign anguages were perhaps the the only real failure to educate. After 3 years of Spanish and 5 of Latin, I can stumblingly ask directions to the restroom and decipher most taxonomic nomenclature. The problem wasn't bad teaching, but refusing to give failing marks to those of us who just did not get it.
Old 02-05-2010, 12:25 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
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Originally Posted by wolf-alice View Post
And how is a child supposed to know what is available for them to learn?
I am actually boggled by this question.

Even as small children we were sent to the library to look at the Encyclopedia for reports and such. In case you've never seen one, the encyclopedia is in many volumes, aphabetically organized. By flipping idly though the pages, I began to sense that there might be at least 35 volumes worth of knowledge in the universe. Soon after, I noticed that the library was a large building filled entirely with books about all sorts of things.

For me, I still use essentially the same revising technique I was taught in the second grade (1st draft - get your ideas out; 2nd draft, organize your thoughts logically; 3rd draft=polish and edit for final draft.)

I went to an exceptional public high school that requires an entrance exam. I had a pretty exceptional experience overall in terms of high school.

Last edited by Hello Again; 02-05-2010 at 12:29 PM.
Old 02-05-2010, 12:26 PM
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Bangkok/52/Male
Posts: 8,869
I was an A/B student in grades 7-9 but in 10-12 the school was a circus and that made it impossible to get any real value out of it. Teachers made no attempt to maintain control of the class, bullying was rampant. As a result, my GPA took a serious nose-dive. I still use some math and science from time to time, and I'm genuinely surprised when I do recall something that I learned from high school that helps me in daily life.

Somehow I managed to beat the odds and landed a pretty decent job in the IT field during the dot com boom. My employer evidently saw potential in me and provided a lot of in house IT training. Using that as a spring board, I have been able to jump to better and better jobs.
Old 02-05-2010, 12:28 PM
Just Lovely and Delicious
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I learned everything in school (midwestern US public school, graduated '97). I probably don't go one day without recalling something I learned in school, whether it be while reading an article, doing my job or even doing a crossword puzzle. I even learned about sex, drugs and alcohol in school!

It's not as if my parents kept me from learning at home, or that I wasn't the curious sort - we went to the library a lot, watched Sesame Street and had an honest-to-god Funk & Wagnalls set. But before the Internet, the world was a very small place. Unless you went wild at the library or had parents with varied interests who could help you on your quest for knowledge...all the learnin' to be got was to be found at school.
Old 02-05-2010, 12:36 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: East Texas
Posts: 9,813
Yes, but I think it's my fault for not retaining more information. I wasn't the best student in school, although I got mostly As and Bs, but I didn't always care enough to pay attention (or memorize things) long term.
Old 02-05-2010, 12:46 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Chapin, IL
Posts: 321
I feel that I was really lucky growing up. For K-8th grade I had some really wonderful teachers and I feel that I had a good grip on math, science, literature, etc. I didn't learn to read in school, but that's because I already knew how to read by the time I got to Kindergarten when they were starting to teach that.

In first grade my family moved to a smaller town and I had the same teacher for grades 1-3. Most people find this strange, but I think it was really beneficial to have the same teacher for that period of time. In 4th grade, when I was struggling with math, my teacher spent time after school with me going over the lessons. To this day, I really appreciate his dedication because he was not required by anyone to stay after school to help me. 5th grade really focused in on history, or at least that's what I remember most about it, and in 6th grade we finally branched out and had different teachers for different lessons. I still remember the names of most of my teachers from that time period, which I'm also told is strange.

7th & 8th grade went much the same, although this is where science started to slip because so much of it became about memorization (we had to memorize every Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species of something like 100 different animals or we failed), and my math teacher was a huge bore. I loved English in this time period though. We read lots of plays, and even acted a few out, we had real writing assignments, and even put together a school newspaper complete with a political cartoon.

As far as highschool, I spent most of my time trying to escape it. My freshmen year I suppose can't really count because I went to a boarding school which, for that year, was pretty awesome in terms of education. We read several "classics" and wrote reports on them (that were really a joke, but hey, at least we did them), science was very experiment-heavy and we had to keep a journal, complete with sketches of things, explanations, etc. History was hugely lacking here, though, and I don't feel I learned anything new in history until college.

I transferred back to public school Sophomore year, and did whatever I had to to graduate early. I will say that I really enjoyed my English and literature classes in high school though. We wrote A LOT, did tons of peer review, and had to analyze pieces of writing meticulously. Oh, and my science teacher in high school was great.

The only area I really feel cheated in from high school was History. I didn't learn anything new and wasn't challenged in the slightest. After taking a few History classes in college I was actually fairly angry with my high school for sugar coating and glossing over so much.
Old 02-05-2010, 01:12 PM
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I knew how to read and write well before Kindergarden. In elementary school, my district was concerned mostly with political correctness (before they started calling it that- this was the mid 70's after all) and being ahead of the curve with the whole metric conversion. So whereas my brethren in other districts had math problems like "Jessie weighs 75 pounds. Her friend Kim weighs 73 pounds. What is the difference between Jessie's weight and Kim's?" I had math problems like "Shabazz has a mass of 26 kilograms. Consuela has a mass of 22 kilograms..."

But high school is where things really went sour. I entered college:
  • Having never learned how to write a check.
  • Having never learned how to conduct research or compose a scholarly thesis.
  • Having never heard of Charlemagne.
  • Having never heard of Joan of Arc.
  • Believing that Jesus of Nazareth was put to death because he refused to worship the Roman gods.
  • Believing that Las Vegas bordered Mexico.
  • Believing that New Orleans was in the general vicinity of Florida.
  • ...and being ignorant about a multitude of similar things that every person who enters an accredited college should have figured out by now.
Old 02-05-2010, 01:29 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
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Originally Posted by HeyHomie View Post
[*]Believing that New Orleans was in the general vicinity of Florida.
Google Maps says it's a three hours drive from New Orleans to Pensacola. How is that not the general vicinity of Florida?

Anyway, no. I learned tons of things in school. I learned how to read and write before I went to school, but I learned to read and write well in school. I learned how to speak Spanish halfway decently. I learned enough math to function in my daily life. I learned a lot of history. I learned about good literature and how to read it. I was in band for most of my schooling and I learned a lot about music and working in a group through that. I learned about how the government works.

I feel like the subject I learned the least about in school was probably science. I thought I hated science then, though. Since I've grown up, I've changed my mind about that, and I enjoy popular science books now.

I went to public schools in urban and then suburban areas in Northern California.
Old 02-05-2010, 01:32 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 2,792
American Public Schools, Northeastern US (Connecticut). K-12 from 1980-1993. B+ish student (Could probably have gotten straight A's, but was... not a motivated hard worker.)

I learned a _LOT_. Math? Check. And while I've pretty much forgotten calculus and trigonometry, the rest of it remains useful to this day.

History? Yup. Pretty good grasp of American history (foggy on some details, but that's bound to happen with anything you don't use every day.). Less good but much broader grasp of Western European history (There was a lot more to cover, since we started somewhere around the time of Ancient Greece.)

Sciences? Strong grasp of biology, adequate grasp of the basics of chemistry (electron levels, components of the atom, hydrogen bonds, blah blah), good grasp of basic physics.

English? Okay, so I really didn't apply myself here much at all. I read a few books. Learned good grammar (early stuff here), appropriate use of most punctuation marks (still fuzzy on the semicolon) and how to break up my run on sentances. Also learned how to BS my way through a paper on a book I had barely opened, and if that's not a life skill, I don't know what is.

I suspect strongly, though don't actually recall, that my generally adequate grasp of US geography comes from somewhere in elementary school.

Was there plenty of stuff I didn't learn in school? Sure. Lots of 'practical' stuff (like the aforementioned 'how to write a check'. Who the heck learns that in school?) But in terms of academic topics, both useful and non, school had me covered.
Old 02-05-2010, 01:32 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Chapin, IL
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Originally Posted by HeyHomie View Post

But high school is where things really went sour. I entered college:
  • Having never learned how to write a check.
I actually had a class that was half learning about computers, and half "life skills". We learned how to write a check and balance a checkbook, and how to do a budget acting as if we were a single parent (this was far more effective than any sex ed class).

Originally Posted by HeyHomie View Post
  • Having never learned how to conduct research or compose a scholarly thesis.
Even during college, I felt this area was hugely lacking.
Old 02-05-2010, 01:37 PM
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Twirling towards freedom
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Yes, I learned an assload in school, both skills and facts. Sure, I could read and write and count and even add and subtract before kindergarten, but I sure as hell didn't know how to multiply, divide, handle negative numbers, perform algebra, geometry, or calculus, do research, draw conclusions from that research, write an argument based on those conclusions, find and address flaws in others' logic and my own, read musical notation and play several musical instruments, or speak French.

Before school, I also knew nothing about history, literature, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, sociology, psychology, politics, music, art, geography, and on and on. I'm constantly surprised when someone doesn't know some basic fact about, say, human anatomy or world history that I remember learning about when I was 9 or 10.

I mean, I was a voracious reader and a huge nerd. I also learned an assload outside of school. But even if I had spent every waking hour learning, school was where I spent the vast majority of those hours, so by default, I learned more there than anywhere else.

I certainly am not claiming I got a top-notch education. I went to ordinary public schools in a tiny, fairly poor, backwater cowtown in the Midwest in the 80s-90s, and when I got to college, I felt incredibly humbled at times by the private-school education of most of my peers. But I wouldn't have even gotten into college, and certainly wouldn't have excelled there, if I hadn't learned as much as I did in school.

I'm well aware that this is not always the case; some schools suck, and fail their students miserably. I just have a hard time believing my experience is the exception, rather than the rule.
Old 02-05-2010, 01:39 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Orlando
Posts: 3,927
OMG, It would take months to list the things I learned in HS. Small school in East TN in 1966 - 1970. Maybe I just liked learning, but this was the period I really took learning to its limits.
Old 02-05-2010, 03:07 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 505
American schools mid 80's - I learned quite a lot.
Old 02-06-2010, 02:17 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Chicago Suburban sprawl
Posts: 617
I learned typing, programming, journalism writing, how to solder, drafting, driving and lots more. I went to a much maligned H.S. in the US. I would say it prepared me pretty well for life.
Old 02-06-2010, 02:23 PM
Charter Jays Fan
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Oakville, Canada
Posts: 38,380
Canadian, late 70s and 80s were my school years.

I learned lots, I am sure. Probably more than I remember learning, if you see what I mean.

When people complain about not learning something, it's usually because they didn't try to learn.
Old 02-06-2010, 02:38 PM
Join Date: Jan 2001
Posts: 26,209
Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
When people complain about not learning something, it's usually because they didn't try to learn.
Or, generally it's because young people think they know everything. And the stupids or lazy ones tend not to push themselves intellectually as they get older so they basically just reinforce whatever it is they think they already "know".
Old 02-06-2010, 02:41 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,192
I learned things at school - it's more university where, at least academically, I learned essentially nothing that I have ever put into practice. Oh, and that was Cambridge btw.
Old 02-06-2010, 03:07 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Roanoke, VA
Posts: 2,901
As with many folks here, I often find xkcd comics ringing true for me, but none moreso than this one.

Replace "11th grade" with "K-12" and "Perl" with "computers and programming in general", multiply the numbers accordingly, and you've got the foundation for my entire career thus far.

Last edited by Roland Orzabal; 02-06-2010 at 03:08 PM.
Old 02-06-2010, 03:44 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 4,231
Not learning as much about your chosen field as you did in other areas and "I didn't learn anything in school at all" are two different statements.
Old 02-06-2010, 03:44 PM
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Bama
Posts: 10,747
I learned loads of stuff in school. Had a great time, and this was in the public school system of Montgomery, Alabama.

-I learned calculus up through the second college-level class.
-I learned Latin well enough to get maxima cum laude on the National Latin Exam.
-I learned German well enough to be fluent.
-I learned up through college level chemistry and physics.
-I learned up through college level biology.
-I learned quite a lot about American and world history. Seriously, you didn't? How is that possible? I know for a fact that you did NOT know more about history than all of your teachers. Didn't happen. So did you just not pay attention?
-I learned that I hate Hemingway. Fitzgerald is overrated. I rather like Maugham. Stephen Crane is OK in my book. I still love Poe. Michener is good at times, but incredibly bogged down in his research at others. Shakespeare is both brilliant and becoming a bit obsolete. On and on and on and on.

How is it even possible to have learned nothing in school?

Last edited by Ogre; 02-06-2010 at 03:46 PM.
Old 02-06-2010, 03:51 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Slithering on the hull
Posts: 25,695
I learned a ton of stuff throughout school, in a variety of public school systems across the midwest US. It helped get me ready to take some really challenging courses in college.

I do recall there was a large group of my fellow high-schoolers who did proclaim loudly that they weren't learning anything, and that their time was being wasted.

I graduated HS in 1975.
Old 02-06-2010, 03:56 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: NW 'burbs of Chicago
Posts: 4,184
I went to public school in Chicago starting in 1970, then in 1979 moved to the south 'burbs, again going to public school. This was middle class to lower middle class neighborhoods. I learned a lot in grammar school and high school. Middle school (7th and 8th grade) was bad, though - I specifically remember that I already knew what they were teaching in 7th grade math from 5th grade. But in 8th grade I got to take algebra. I also learned a lot abou High school was in the mid-80s, when they were just starting AP (advanced placement) courses. I took two years of physics, one year chemistry, a couple AP lit classes, and learned to program in BASIC. I will say I didn't learn a lot of practical stuff, like how to balance a checkbook, but I learned a lot of reading, writing, 'rithmatic.

So in short, I learned a lot in school.
Old 02-06-2010, 04:42 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Dayton Ohio USA
Posts: 26,873
I don't understand how someone could go through 13 years of school and not learn anything. Seriously. I learned enough from the major disciplines to attend college. I also applied the skills I learned to build cars, a garage, an airplane and basically anything that could be self-taught using the building blocks of a primary education.
Old 02-06-2010, 05:20 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 4,231
I believe I recognize a subtext in the OP that is a praise of the value of autodidactism. And I agree - self-directed learning, self-teaching, has a place in every educated person's life.

But I believe that there are limits to such a method of instruction. For one, it is human nature to naturally seek out information that either agrees with one's opinions (confirmation bias) or is information to which one is naturally drawn. I've had a number of students in my classes over the years who brag to me that they are expecting my classes to be easy for them because they're read a lot about psychology over the years. Many of them get a huge wake-up shock on the first exam, because they've chosen over the years to read books that are pop psychology or that are fun and interesting, but are not actually psychology.

Just talking about my particular field, there are a LOT of theories and contributors to the field of psychology that, left to my own devices, I would not have chosen to study. Having that knowledge, however, is just as important as the knowledge of those contributors that interest me.

I believe that some people are convinced that they, themselves, personally, did not need any formal education, and that left to their own devices, they would have learned as much from "a dollar fifty in late charges down at the public library," as Will says in Good Will Hunting. However, I believe that those people are few and far between, and that there might just be some possible holes in their self-chosen educational process, and that formal educational systems do good for a wide swath of the population at large.

As for me - I knew how to read when I was three, and was writing at four. But school taught me what a well-crafted sentence looked like, and then taught me why, and that knowledge taught me how to recognize when someone was playing with the rules of grammar and English writing in a creative way, and when they were just a bad writer.

School taught me algebra and trigonometry and calculus and geometry and chemistry. I did not go into those classes knowing that information.

School taught me history, and taught me that the way I was taught it made it boring, and later taught me that other ways of teaching it made it come alive for me.

I don't have enough time, actually, to list all the things I learned in school.
Old 02-06-2010, 07:23 PM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Ireland
Posts: 2,977
Originally Posted by wolf-alice View Post
Also, listen. Case in point. I know nothing, literally nothing, about History. No dates, no kings, no battles, no concept of continuity, and I took this to GCSE level (and I got a B).
I have GCSE history. And with all due respect, you did not get yours knowing literally nothing about history. You may have forgotten it all since, but thats not the systems fault.

Originally Posted by nudgenudge View Post
I reckon it's not too wild an exaggeration to say that up to about the age of 14 the primary purposes of school are (a) somewhere to keep the kids off the streets and out of adults' hair while they go about their business, and (b) for kids to learn social skills.
The primary purpose of school, is to learn how to learn.

Its nothing new for people to cry, "5 years of French/Science/Geography wasted, I never learned a thing". These people have sorta missed the point. The world doesnt care if you learn how to ask directions in french, it just wants you learn new things, so that you can do it again in the future.

IME, people who say that they "feel as though they learned nothing in school" get too hung up on the details of what they learned at school, rather than the deeper purpose of education. After all, part of the history GCSE involved 2000 word coursework esays about WW2 or the History of Medicine. What bloody use is that to me now eh?

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