Why do schools teach us useless things? 10 reasons why

So much of what we learn in school seems to have no use.

Yet if you fail the tests on it you don’t progress on to your adult life and profession.

Is there a reason that mainstream education is so determined to drill useless information into our heads?

Why do schools teach us useless things? 10 reasons why

1) They’re more about conditioning than learning

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has a low opinion of modern public education. According to him, it’s trying to create passive followers instead of creative leaders.

As Robbins says, much of what we learn even in university is far too abstract and ends up not applying to our real lives.

The reason is that we are taught from a young age to be passive learners who accept and take in information without much questioning or exploration.

This turns us into complaint cogs for the corporate machine when we’re older, but it also makes us depressed, disempowered and unhappy.

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2) The curriculums are designed by people with ideological mindsets

Behind every school is a curriculum. Curricula are basically systems to ensure that students learn a certain amount about chosen topics.

In the Soviet Union that would have been about how communism was the saving grace of the world. In Afghanistan it’s about how Islam is the truth and men and women have different roles in life. In the United States or Europe it’s about how “freedom” and liberalism are the apex of history.

The opinions don’t stop after literature, history and humanities, either.

The way science and math is taught also has a lot to do about beliefs of those designing the curriculum, as do the classes on sexual education, physical education and art and creative subjects.

This is natural and there’s nothing inherently harmful about curricula having the imprint of those who made them.

But when people with strong ideologies only generally leaning one direction right all the dominant curricula in a nation or culture, you end up churning out generations who think alike and have been taught not to question anything.

3) They are too focused on information that doesn’t help us in life

School curriculums tend to be saturated with explicit and implicit ideology of the system that designed them.

They also tend to be focused on compliance and creating future citizens who will sit down, shut up and do what they’re told.

This is part of why so many people end up in careers they hate without being quite sure how they got there.

Wasn’t there supposed to be some kind of dream-filled future awaiting?

What does it take to build a life filled with exciting opportunities and passion-fueled adventures?

Most of us hope for a life like that, but we feel stuck, unable to achieve the goals we wishfully set at the start of each year.

I felt the same way until I took part in Life Journal. Created by teacher and life coach Jeanette Brown, this was the ultimate wake-up call I needed to overcome the passivity that modern education had instilled in me and start taking action.

Click here to find out more about Life Journal.

So what makes Jeanette’s guidance more effective than other self-development programs?

It’s simple:

Jeanette’s created a unique way of putting YOU in control of your life.

She’s not interested in telling you how to live your life. Instead, she’ll give you lifelong tools that’ll help you achieve all your goals, keeping the focus on what you’re passionate about.

And that’s what makes Life Journal so powerful.

If you’re ready to start living the life you’ve always dreamt of, you need to check out Jeanette’s advice. Who knows, today could be the first day of your new life.

Here’s the link once again.

4) They want us to become passive receivers instead of active transmitters

By now I’ve tried to emphasize that mainstream modern education is more about conditioning than education.

Instead of teaching you how to think, all too often, education teaches you what to think.

There’s quite a big difference.

When you produce generations of willing consumers who will do what they’re told there are various benefits for governments and corporations:

Social stability, an ever-growing pool of prescriptions for depression and anxiety and consumers and producers who stay on the hamster wheel as intended.

This is good for “the system,” it’s just not so good for self-actualization and those looking to live life.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being in the system. We all are in some way, even those of us who think we’re not define ourselves in contrast to what we imagine the system to be.

But when the educational process tells you more about useless information than how to sign a rental contract or cook, you know that you’re being socially conditioned more than you’re being educated.

5) The textbooks are written by people who are too stuck in their heads

One of my former jobs was working as an editorial assistant in educational publishing.

I would help edit and improve texts that authors submitted on subjects ranging from “What is a Bluebird?” to “How Weather Works” and “The Most Interesting Architectural Wonders in the World.”

We helped work with graphic design to get pictures placed to keep students’ interest and edited the sentences to be clear and short.

The books went out for K-12 across North America.

I’m not saying that they were low quality. They had the material necessary and the photos and facts.

But they were written in a crowded room of computers and people sitting at them. People stuck in their heads and world of facts and figures.

What about going on a field trip to see bluebirds or taking a walk through a town to see examples of unique architecture?

Textbooks, documentaries and many audio-visual aids of education materials get students too stuck in their heads and taking in information and sights instead of going out and finding it for themselves.

6) Memorization is still the basis of much of education

From language classes to chemistry and history, memorization is still the basis of much of education.

This leads to those with a better memory and memory techniques being considered “smarter” and getting better grades.

Memorization of large blocks of information becomes what “studying” is, rather than often truly understanding the subject material.

Even material which could be useful in real life situations now and then, such as calculus or historical facts about cultures and languages, gets lost in the maze of memorization.

This can have real-life consequences down the line, too.

For example, doctors who are taught enormous amounts of critical material by memorization often go to great lengths to memorize entire books in order to graduate.

Once they get that diploma and are certified to practice, a large amount of that information fades away, of course.

Now they are sitting in front of you as a patient knowing barely anything apart from the very basics because they were forced to memorize entire volumes of content that wasn’t even necessarily connected thematically.

7) When was the Battle of Waterloo?

Schools teach many useless things because they teach on a just-in-case basis.

You learn a bit of everything just in case it becomes useful.

But modern life is much more based on a different system: JIT (just in time).

This means that you need to know things at an exact right moment, not just rattling around somewhere in your brain for ten years from now when you’ll forget them.

With our smartphones, we have access to unparalleled amounts of information and content, including verifications of what sources are reliable or not.

But instead, schools ask us to memorize things like the date of the battle of Waterloo.

It might help you in a game of Jeopardy! but it’s not going to do you a ton of good when your boss asks you to change a setting on a complicated app you need to use for work.

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8) Schools treat everyone the same

Schools try to treat everyone the same. The idea is that given the same opportunities and access to learning, students will have an equal chance to benefit from education.

That’s not how it works, however.

Not only do IQ levels vary wildly between students, but they are also dealing with numerous other socio-economic factors which can benefit or harm the learning process.

By taking a cookie cutter approach to students and using testing to get them to pay attention, schools do themselves a disservice.

Unmotivated students who push themselves to remember information for a test are still ultimately not taking anything from the education.

Those who master the content, meanwhile, are likely to be sorely lacking in life skills even though they can remember many names, dates and equations.

Aptitude and interest vary enormously between students.

By suppressing this fact and offering little course selection until at least late high school, the education system forces everyone through the same cookie cutter system that leaves many cynical and disengaged.

9) Schools thrive on standardization

As per the above point, schools thrive on standardization. The easiest way to mass test a group of people is by presenting them with the same batches of information and demanding they regurgitate it.

On more advanced matters like math or literature, you simply ask that they recall what was given to them and rework it in the form of problems or prompts given to them.

Solve equation for x. Write about an experience that made you who you are today.

These may be useful and interesting within the context they’re given, but they’re certainly of limited utility in any broader way.

By standardizing the information that’s given out, schools have a workable system to put the greatest number of bodies through a set process and grade them by a quantifiable system.

The downside is that schools end up measuring memory and compliance more than intelligence and creativity, in many cases.

As former teacher and literacy activist Kylene Beers says “if we teach a child to read but fail to develop a desire to read, we will have created a skilled nonreader, a literate illiterate. And no high test score will ever undo that damage.”

10) What’s useful requires creative thinking and self-motivation

Think of the most useful things you know in life.

Where did you learn them?

Speaking for myself it’s a short list:

I learned them from parents and family members, friends, coworkers and bosses who taught me on the job and life experiences that required me to learn to survive.

One reason that schools teach such useless things is that they have a limited ability to replicate the inevitable lessons that real life teaches us.

How can you learn not to take out too long a lease on an expensive vehicle without knowing for sure whether you’ll have a job…

Until making this exact costly mistake.

How can you learn about the best ways to maintain your health and wellbeing in terms of nutrition without getting consultations and studying different paths that pertain to your particular blood type and body type?

Many things that are most useful in life come to us in our unique experiences and end up also being unique to us.

Schools have a very hard time teaching that, because they’re more general and aimed at instilling basic intellectual information rather than life skills.

We don’t need no education?

I believe that it is too hasty to do away with education or abandon the idea of a systematized educational system and curriculum.

I simply feel it should have more variety and leave more room for students to pursue their specific interests, ask questions and be creative.

One-size-fits-all rarely works in clothing and it doesn’t work in education.

We’re all different, and we’re all drawn toward different methods of learning and different subjects which engage our interest.

I love history and literature, others can’t stand such topics and feel drawn to the sciences or mathematics.

Let’s keep a place for intellectual subjects in school  but also introduce more hands-on courses that prepare us for life:

Things like finances, housekeeping, personal responsibility, basic repairs and electronics, mental health and ethics.

With some imagination, effort and creativity we can head to a new era of education that’s much more individualized and empowering.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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