August 27, 2007

On Civics Classes

There are many required classes that students hate. For example, my high school offered a course called "Career Pathways", which was designed to basically teach you how to type and write a research paper. This half semester course wasn't liked by anyone because it didn't offer anything of extreme value, as most people could already type, and because it was designed to mess up people's schedules. Fortunately, the class requirement was dropped this year, and hopefully such a course will never have to be taken again.

Unfortunately, this highlights an odd set of priorities for American school systems. After all, the Career Pathways course was under the business department of our school, and was taught by business teachers. Coursework prepared students for what amounted to white-collar office jobs with excel spreadsheets and research on a career. It wasn't just that the course was boring: the very purpose of the class was to prepare you to be an office worker. Why?

Our public schools are teaching students how to be good at menial office jobs, but they can't find the time to teach students to be good citizens? Aren't good citizens slightly better than good secretaries? Our national priorities seem to be screwed up: we're using public schools to make productive members of the economy rather than good citizens.

There's nothing wrong with having good office skills, but public schools, for some, are the only time that they will care about the American government. Some schools simply teach American history and are done with it, but this is a bad technique designed only to cut costs. Every American public school ought to be teaching their students about being good citizens and voting.

In the long run, civics classes would be better for students anyway. After all, those business skills are so commonplace that many students go into the course knowing what to do and learn nothing. While skills for business could change (one day Microsoft Word or Excel might be replaced), the skills needed to be a good citizen never do. "Career Pathways" courses everywhere should be replaced by civics classes, so that our future citizens will be able to preserve and restore democracy.

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