NB : This article is very France-centered, but I think it could be interesting to read for other cultures.
There are a lot of things we don't learn, yet we should.
Yes, basics. I think primary school should aim at give us the basics in our modern life :
Read, write, count, swim
Too many children getting out of school without those skills.
Swim… Let's say that drowning is in my opinion, one of the most stupid ways to die. So obvious I cannot even justify it !
France… Best cuisine in the world among some !
Yet, most of the people don't really know how to cook. I mean, really. We can read recipes in books or websites, but not that skilled.
It would be as well really important to take care of yourself. To know what, how much to eat and when.
I think this teaching should be done in small groups, and begin quite early in the youth, while preparing the group's meal. It could be great to break the gender gaps, teach safety rules and group-work.
Cooking is for girls…
If young boys learn as soon as 10 to cook along with young girls, this kind of remarks will disappear soon.
It will also be useful later in that department ! Remember boys : girls love when you cook for them !
So, speaking of food, we should also mention health (I thought of that because i bike up and down the city, but don't know if I am eating enough, nor if it is adapted). What to eat, and when.
During winter, eat oranges, you'll avoid the flu !
Except no one says that !
Health is a subject barely mentioned in sciences/biology/whatever lectures, but it is far from being enough.
Dig a bit deeper in the subject and give good websites, well-designed, with doctors' and dietitians' advices. So when in need, everyone knows where to look at. We could therefore use more self-diagnostic and medication, instead of going to the doctor for every little thing we have (which constitute the vast majority of doctors' visits, as Greg House tells us.)
Basics in computing
Yes, learning basics.
- What is a computer.
- Internet, web and mail (and their differences).
- Internet addresses : actually, ip and dns.
- Digital sanity - link in french.
- Cryptography, https, ssl/tls and openGPG.
- Learn to use a spreadsheet processor rather than Excel. (Yes, I know, it is stupid people stuck to the program's name whereas the functions are almost the same.)
Some would say it is a lot. They are right. Same time I think the web is the modern Agora : space for freedom of speech, policy, philosophy, democracy. There explode revolutions, alternative thoughts and social evolutions. There arise and grow the new enterprises which should crush today's bureaucracies.
How can one tell on the web without knowing about an ip address ? How to connect safely to your online banking without these knowledge ? How to protect your privacy and those of others if you don't protect your internet communications ?
I don't even talk about spam, scam, phishing, which could be stopped now and then with a good config.
Yes, but all these tools are useless if the user don't know about it or how to use it, nor to understand their computer's reactions.
Famous chair-keyboard interface.
Even there, Denmark, The Techno-Kingdom, The Network Society, a lot of people don't understand computers !
Two foreign languages
Note to Englishmen and Americans : being the world's dominant culture does not dispense you from learning other's ! It shows respect, understanding, openness.
It is possible to learn several language without being negative on the native one. It gives a good open-mindedness.
Why not learning Esperanto first before English (if you are not native English-speaker) ? It is a propaedeutic language : it eases learning another language !
With that, adding another language in high school or University could be easy.
Law is a complex domain, but quite fundamental in western world. Fundamental in all senses : hidden, invisible, backyard but really essential to many elements in the society.
Obviously abstract, but without basics in Law, it is not surprising the New York Times argue more and better than French people about their constitution.
With basics in Law, one can search and protect their rights. Human rights, working relations… It opens also on politics and democracy.
By the way, Law is written by lawyers, mostly for lawyers. No matter what, it's them the most protected.
Law should certainly be lighter. Lighter so less complex. More understandable. More democratic finally.
Maybe less protective but same time more used by those it is really supposed to. And that is positive.
Carpet paradox again : if your tool is not comfortable nor designed to fit the user's understanding, it will not be used, despite potential benefits for the user.
First aid gestures, what to do in case of accident or fire
It is stupid to die of drowning while you can learn to swim, it is stupid as well not to know what to do to save someone drowning.
Most domestic or work accidents could lead to a better end if one knew what to do. This teaching is also really fast. It should also include learning good practices in case of fire, earthquake (France is marginally affected by this, but US citizen could be) or any other major disaster you may face.
Some self-defence gestures
The society itself should not be violent nor promote violence. But waiting for this to happen, we should train and learn potential victims to defend themselves. Or even other persons.
I think first and foremost about women (first victims of any sort of violence, from rape to handbag stealing).
All of this ?
Yes. And maybe more. Our societies have became extremely complex.
I don't say we should all know about it. It would not be possible in my opinion. Too many (young) people getting out of school tired of it. Rather organize the education system in order to give everyone possibility to come back. Organize also our lives around this idea.
At some point in life, we may be tired, or want to start a new step, new project, maybe our own small business. So take a break for few months, come back to school, and learn about you and what you can do, after fifteen years of working.
10 % of the population should have a good understanding of internet. It would be already huge.
10 % of the population able to defend themselves is also 10 % of the population able to defend someone else : the weak, the little one, the old lady.
Law ? 10 % of the population who knows about it means that 10 % could help persons in need (where to look at ? Where to file a claim ?).
With this critical mass, people around you, if not yourself, will have the skill you need.
Learning all life long
This thoughts mean you need to develop self and long-term learning. And all should value it, from the person themselves, to their family, employer and finally society at large.
It might be needed to remind or re-qualify from time to time, speaking of first-aid gestures for example.
Driving also. I did not mention it before, but I think this skill should be controlled more often. After all, your car is controlled on a regular basis. Why not yourself ?
Building engineers and medical doctors have to pass test again and again. Engineering calculations are checked twice.
Driving? No! You got your licence for all your life.
Still, there are more people dying in car accidents than because of bridges collapsing.
Also think about new/alternative pedagogy
At school, I got three cycles of History : primary, secondary and high school. Was it necessary that I read three times about Egypt's Pharaohs and Charlemagne to understand the whole point?
French teaching of History is really France-centered : France first and foremost, then a few pieces of Occident, and really few of the World at large. How to understand China and Asia with it?
For you Americans : I never really get it that so many of you cannot place your country on a map, or important historical times. Did you know The Statue of Liberty is a gift from France ?
Maybe should we suppress History in primary school, focus more on languages and maths (and cooking as said above) because it's where it goes best.
Let's say also that good teaching techniques allow to learn several things at once.
Judo and martial arts, which are self-defence sports, are also a school of self-respect and respect to others.
Group-work, really few used in France, allows to teach respect to others, listening to opinions and finally debate and democracy. More : group-work allows to help each other and use collective intelligence. It allows also the teacher to use the smartest pupils as deputy teacher (same thing as parents tell the oldest child to take care of the young).
The more you teach, the more you learn.
Select by talents, rather than grades and failures.
Schools in Western countries should focus more on growing talents. Maybe pupils and students could play or engage in philosophical discussions that would help to select the best scholarship for them.
Today, selection for university (and possible professional future) gets decided based on academic results. The bests should be engineers, or doctors, even if they prefer working with languages or build wood furniture.
More options, more individuality
An important block holding the majority of learning time and lots of options to go further, everywhere you want. Here is the whole idea : teach a lot of useful things to a lot of people, to distribute skills in the whole society. There might be some coordination work to be done with local sports clubs or whatever.
Sport then ! To be set as an option, to stop frightening all the weak ones, the ones who don't enjoy competition…