Students, Meet the Real World This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

September 29, 2011
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For four years during high school, we learn the principles of science and math. How to solve for x in a polynomial equation. But as a volunteer engineer for a manufacturing factory during my sophomore year, I found that the typical high school curriculum is just not enough to prepare students for the real world.

Our schools have become too old-fashioned. Today, success in the real world is not about memorizing the periodic table or the quadratic equation. It's not about studying for hours the night before a test to get a 100 percent, then forget it all the next week. School should be about how to apply these sciences and arts to the real world.

In the real world, if you need to know something for your job, you look it up online. High school shouldn't focus so much on memorization; we can leave that work to machines that are better at it. It would be impossible and unnecessary for a person to memorize all the information the Internet has to offer. However it is important for students to learn how to quickly access information online and apply it to real-world situations.

Now that I've had a taste of the real world, I believe high school and college should be more hands-on and based on applied sciences. I think as more of our generation enter the real world, they will agree. To learn the most important working skills, students can job shadow, volunteer in their intended industry, or tinker with things themselves, such as computers, mechanics, art, or even manage activities and events. But with seven hours of school plus sports and homework, who has the time for independent study? These skills really belong in school.

Classes in high school should revolve around career fields such as scientific research, health care, engineering, business, arts, and communication (teaching and politics). This would help us choose careers we are actually interested in. Each class should open its doors and let education meet reality by applying what they teach to real-world scenarios.

In English classes, companies could give business letters and documents to students for proofreading. Classes could collectively write movie and book reviews, columns on current events and issues, and post them online. Teachers could supervise their students' work to make sure it meets professional standards.

In science classes, students should experiment and discover. As a class, re-create real-world scientific experiments, monitor water quality in local rivers and lakes, and test companies' products for safety and areas of improvement. Analyze samples sent in by scientists and give input. Measure the sound waves of our favorite music. Get involved in the scientific community. Businesses, the environment, the public, and students would all benefit.

In math classes, teachers should find ways for students to apply their lessons to the real world. As a class, calculate sports statistics and animal populations. Solve real-world problems sent in by engineers and architects. Classes could monitor real estate, stock market behavior, and do accounting.

In history classes, students should learn by contributing to society. As a class, interview the older adults and document their experiences. We should study the past and write articles to help people understand current situations and influence opinions.

In art classes, we should be artists. Classes should paint custom pictures and sculpt artwork for people's homes. Cook, invent, give input on recipes, and run a restaurant at school. Build custom furniture to sell for just the price of materials. Design posters and advertising media.

If high schools (and colleges) could include these activities and embrace the principle of applying what they teach, students would be much better prepared for the real world. This would not only benefit schools, but the world. Schools would graduate better employees and managers, sell quality products created by students, and put taxpayer funding to even better use. Schools would become more like government-funded labs, workshops, and research centers.

Students should leave school prepared for the real world. Anything less is time wasted.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 8 comments. Post your own now!

iWriteForFood said...
Apr. 3, 2013 at 6:53 pm
You have a very good point! I would love it if I were able to do those sorts of things in my classes at school!
RunningNDfree said...
Sept. 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm
I agree with this completely.  I'm still just a sophomore in high school but often times in classes I've heard, "When are we ever going to use this in real life?" and it's true.  Currently my school is moving more towards this.  My history teacher does not require us to memorize any dates.  He has pointed out multiple times that he knows none of us will use the information later in life unless we become huge history buffs.  He just ... (more »)
Wiley_is_number_one said...
Dec. 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm
yeah :D i love wiley
Wiley_is_number_one said...
Dec. 7, 2011 at 1:44 am
Yeah wiley teen ink at midnight :D
LifeisBrutal said...
Nov. 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm
jutah said...
Nov. 15, 2011 at 8:24 am

You say, "In the real world, if you need something for your job, you look it up online."  This is incredibly naive.  In specialized fields professionals and experts are expected to have a mastery and understanding of content related to thier position. 


And most teachers strive to apply learning to "real world" scenarios.  However, an increasingly apathetic youth coupled with a culture that continues tol devalue literacy has made that task virtually imp... (more »)

Hawthorn replied...
Jan. 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm
Consider this, if students are devaluing literacy what is this a result of? If I belivethat my classes are pointless why should I try?
LifeisLife said...
Oct. 9, 2011 at 10:37 pm
You have a very good point. Only because a student memories the information, doesnt mean he/she understands it. You should share your ideas with your school :)
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