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Remember your school days? Recently the BBC revealed the results of some research about adults recalling nasty school pranks from their childhood, ranging from Chinese burns to being tripped up in the playground.  Perhaps the research was intended as some kind of nostalgia for parents as they look back to their school days.

tutorhubAnother part of the research – a part I find more interesting – looked at what they thought were the ‘least-beneficial subjects to their education.’  The top three were pretty much as I expected…

  • Religious Education topped the list – with 21% finding it the least beneficial.

  • Second was Art – 16% thought that benefited them the least.

  • Interestingly, the third-place prize goes to PE, with 10% seeing it as the biggest waste of time in their education.

This got me thinking about different subjects and why we study them.  I mean, if they are so useless in our eyes then why do them?

  • Let’s look at RE for a second.  Why do we study it?
    I think there is a belief in schools that studying religion looks at some of the deepest and most thoughtful questions that we look at in society.  Religion has always been around us, whether you believe in it or not.  The large majority of the fabric of British society is built around religion – certainly laws have historically been shaped by it.
    That said, there is an argument that this isn’t taught in schools.  From my experience we seem to spend a lot of time talking about other religions without looking at its relevance to society.  Theory appears to be the most common aspect of religious studies now.
    What we also see is the blurring of the boundary between religion and philosophy.  School children find themselves learning about abortion, assisted suicide and homosexual marriages, including religious views on such topics.

  • Art was perhaps one of my least-favourite subject at school.  Maybe I have a disliking of art or am just purely nihilistic or something.  Still, art was never my strong point and I didn’t see art as a useful subject – I had no talent with drawing and I never intended (and still don’t) to use this in later life.  I think this is one perfect example of where the subject should be optional – not everyone is a gifted Rembrandt and few are likely to see the benefit of studying it.

  • PE – I’ll come clean now.  I wasn’t a great athlete at school.  My overly-round shape and inability to run more than 100m without risking a mild seizure made me practically useless for anything except for playing goalkeeper.
    Thing is though, I do enjoy sports – I may not have been that kid who pretended it was the Olympics every Tuesday afternoon but I saw it as a welcome relief to a day sat in a rotten classroom.
    PE serves as a means of enjoying a healthy lifestyle – at least that’s the intention.  Combine that with Food Technology and you have the ingredients (pardon the pun) to a healthy lifestyle.  The trouble is, you’ve got cookery classes making unhealthy pizzas and fat-filled cakes and little more than sport in the PE lessons.  Defeating the object slightly?

Perhaps then it’s down to personal taste – I’m sure there are many out there who enjoy an afternoon of philosophy and artistic concepts.  But surely isn’t it time the government got with the times and gave us the option of studying what we consider right for us?  I think there’s little point everyone undergoing the same education if it isn’t suited to what we’re actually good at.  A more streamlined education would probably help kids stay on for longer – studying every subject under the sun tells you more about what you don’t want to do and is probably a factor in why so many drop out of school at the first available opportunity.

Asking me to draw and develop my artistic knowledge was a waste of time, so I question why I was in the classroom learning it for two hours a week – I could have done something to actually help my chosen path, like maths for instance.

In the words of Margaret Mead… “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Should schoolchildren be taught every subject, even if it’s not in their chosen field?”

  1. RossMountney

    You raise some really interesting points here…may I raise some more?
    Take RE; much of our societal guidance comes from age old religious maxims, whether we are religious or not and it does provoke many ethical discussion which gets kids thinking as you so rightly point out they need to do! Maybe we should now change our RE to philosophy instead to do the same job?
    PE – physical activity increases blood flow to the brain which promotes mental activity so therefore does have an affect on achievement, it also increases self confidence. We just need to find the right physical activity for young people and stop pushing sport as the only form!
    And Art? Well, people don’t seem to realise that it’s the creative thinkers, as much as the scientists, who help the world progress. Those with ideas and initiatives and the ability to think outside current rules and theories! Creative people help the world progress so any form of creative activity develops our brains in progressive ways that structured activities cannot!
    However – I would also say that the way these subjects are approached in schools usually fails to achieve this valuable development in young people or inspire them to think further!

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  2. mothmatt

    I agree absolutely with the original post! And I am glad that someone has the guts to state it. So much of what passes for ‘education’ in this country is merely worshipping sacred cows and fear of breaking icons. Traditional school education could be compressed massively, as it is for home-schoolers – but the biggest impediment to needed change is the teaching unions who fear for their jobs. As you know, I also classify science ‘practicals’ under the ‘waste of time’ heading – but we’d better agree to disagree on that one!

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  3. mothmatt

    I also agree with Ross. Only nerds like myself (inseparable from my dissecting kit and chemistry set from age six) ‘do’ science as a hobby thing but art, ‘games’ and – to a certain extent – religion (all of which I loathed at school) are pretty popular hobbies that can be done by anyone at any time in their own time – with only the lucky extremely few making a living at it. School education should fill the gaps and cover things that people don’t generally do in their own time or voluntarily for pleasure, that will enable most people to access further learning in their own time or prepare them for the nasty world of reality called work that most of us have to face.

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