Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What is the Powerhouse of the Cell?

The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell... if this doesn't ring a bell... then Houston, we have a problem. Or, is it a problem that we actually know this...?


A few weeks back, my wife and I were having a conversation about how we want our son to experience education. She immediately brought up this Tumblr phenomena where everyone is complaining that public education has taught them every single useless piece of information.

5, 10, even 20 years after high school, everyone knows what the powerhouse of the cell is. But...we don't know how to file taxes, we don't know who to vote for or why... that is, unless some celebrity is causing some social issue to trend on Twitter and people are obviously outrages in one way or another. We don't know how to get a passport and travel internationally. We don't know how to "get stuff done" at the DMV. If our car breaks down, we have no clue how to fix it. If our plumbing stops up, we have no clue how to deal with it. We basically have no life skills.

But, we know the mitochondria. And, I guess we're doing alright then. WRONG!

Welcome to the first of my honest conversations about academics.

If we've been interacting for some time, you know that I'm no stranger to school. I have two graduate degrees; both which I was conferred with honors. And, I have undergraduate studies in Bioengineering and Psychology. I know school and I know it well.

This also means I know what works and what doesn't work. Moreover, I served as a tutor for quite some time. As an academic instructor to AP tests, SATs, and various other subjects, I saw a definitive trend to a terrible economic quandary to students.

Is school financially worth it?

The answer: It depends. In fact, everything depends not on going to school, or the major you took, or even the school you went to. The center of it all was this: Do you have a career plan for your life?

In my experience, if a student had a plan on very precise and direct pathways between each level of schooling and a way to earn money, they were doing well. If they had this attitude of "I'll just decide when I get there" -- in a survival mode of sorts just to make it through the course load... these were the ones in trouble.

The worst cases were found in students who saw school as their purpose. They couldn't see beyond graduation or getting into the next level of higher learning. Life was about school; not about... well...life! There was no thought given to where the student was going to live post grad, how they were going to make money and pay for bills/loans/etc, nor how they were going to manage wealth and retirement.

They had nothing. All they had was this terrifying and detrimental focus on "I must get in" or " I must pass." After all this, they accumulate a 4 year degree as well as tens of thousands of dollars in debt -- after which, they were still jobless.

Well... that's not life. Not knowing what the end goal after school should be is the biggest reason why students should NOT go to school. If their plan in life has nothing to do with school, they shouldn't be in it. Now, I'm not talking about taking every middle-schooler who hates school out of class. I'm talking about the high school junior who wants to do something that nothing to do with a 4 year university experience. That student should graduate high school and get straight to work. School will be there if they want to go back.

And, on the bigger playing field... so much of education has now glued itself to test metrics. However, tests don't measure character. Don't we want people of character in our future? Rather than, people of great test taking skills?

If we're complaining about how under-prepared and immature our students are currently, we have only ourselves to blame for how we are teaching them. Rather, wouldn't it be better of some of the life skills above were seen as priority? There are already thoughts as to how the future of education should unfold; in a precise and purposeful way... no longer in a general way.

I would rather that students have no idea what the powerhouse of the cell is. And instead, know everything about how to start a life on their own; earning a living, buying a house, filing taxes, a sound understanding of civil duties, and most importantly... how to live as citizens of good character.

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