Schooling is useful, compulsory, free, sometimes fun. Make the most of it.

The sciences lead to many occupations; they also help us to understand the environment we’re part of, and what we can do to protect it. History and the social sciences explain the societies we live in, and teach us to participate as citizens, voters … . Art, music , and athletics prepare few for professions, but many for lifelong pleasures.
Technical subjects can lead to technical employments. Languages introduce new people and places.

All these subjects, well taught and well studied, develop our skills as human beings who live with others. Confidence, ambition, social skills, cultural development: school can encourage all of them. They’re mostly learned elsewhere though, in families and communities. But literacy and numeracy, a.k.a. reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, should be the first priority of schools, and students at school. They’re fundamental tools of work, further education, and meaningful life.

Reading well is vital. Contracts and great literature, instructions and warranties, government regulations and political platforms… all of us need to read hard and carefully. The computer hasn’t changed this: we read on line, we write on line, and we still need to get that right. Baker, banker, barber, salesman, surgeon, seafarer; sooner or later you’ll need to express yourself clearly, in writing.

Math is equally important. Some of us may never use our algebra or geometry, but we all need a clear sense of numbers and quantities: measuring, estimating, keeping our accounts, testing the statistical claims of advertisers and politicians. And it’s a tool of many trades: plumbers, physicists, chefs, stockbrokers… .

The 3Rs are fundamental in life. And in higher education. That’s why the Scholastic Aptitude Tests are verbal and mathematical. They’re not intelligence tests; they’re not even aptitude tests. What they do measure is skill in the 3Rs, and they do this because it’s the key to success in college. And in today’s world most high school students think that more education is a good idea. That’s another story.

One way and another, David R Jones has spent most of his life in the education business.

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