All the Things We Learn in High School

My daughter, who is now finishing up 11th grade in our public high school, shared with me a College Humor video called “Some Study That I Used to Know,” that she and her classmates were watching in AP English (they were all finished with standardized testing so the teacher let them watch Youtube videos as  a reward). College Humor videos are a big favorite – highly inappropriate for younger viewers but most are quite funny and original.

This particular video was about all the things we learn in high school but promptly forget or never use again, for example: igneous vs. metamorphic, iambic pentameter, geometry, Millard Filmore, Eli Whitney. This made me chuckle, especially thinking about all the things I covered in college that I don’t even remember knowing! I once came across a 5 page biographical essay I wrote in my “Modern Russia” course and didn’t even recognize the name of the person I wrote about! And no, it wasn’t because I partied too much. It was probably from sleep deprivation and too much marching (I went to a military academy).

There’s a lot of attention these days on what our kids are learning (Common Core for example) and how we might get them to learn it better. Even amongst the homeschool crowd, the discussion is more often about the best way to promote retention, not “Do we really have to learn this?”

I’m not claiming to have any definitive answers about what our kids should learn, mainly because I think it should depend on what the kids want to learn. But I was inspired to make a list of all the things I learned in high school that turned out to be useful, whether I knew it at the time or not:

  • How to format, write, and fold a business letter
  • Commonly misspelled homophones
  • European history (the big picture – even if I don’t remember all the details)
  • U.S. history (same as above)
  • How to use ratios to solve practically everything
  • How to determine the amount of wall space in a room I am about to paint
  • How to use a computer
  • Rudimentary Spanish
  • How to cut out a pattern and use a sewing machine
  • Making and reading graphs
  • Use of the vanishing point while drawing
  • Some chemicals are very very dangerous
  • How to serve in tennis
  • Converting units of measurement – units are very  important!
  • How to manage my time
  • How to prepare a Bibliography
  • How to find what I need in a library
  • Evaluating source material before writing

I’m sure there are more items to add, but you can see that this list might be different for everyone. How about you? What did you learn in high school that turned out to be the most useful?

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