Learning practical knowledge before college

By Sarah Eckrich
Staff Writer

April 4, 2013

Pennsylvania: lousy roads, rickety bridges that are constantly threatening to hurl you into whatever obstacle lurks below, mountain passages littered with signs warning that “rocks” might fall on you, so watch out.

Then you consider life as a college student in the commonwealth, worried that your computer will crash, your car collapse, or LHU will institute some new network requirement that thwarts your ability to login to the Internet and join virtual campus life.

Meanwhile, your education up to this point has done very little to prepare you for these problems. Sure, middle school home and economics taught you how to thread that sewing machine most of us will never use, and typing class taught you how to uncomfortably place your fingers and type slower than most of us learn to later in life. You know how to put a grid over a photograph, sketch in the boxes, and paint a slipshod something. You know all about history and algebra and acid rain.

How many people have gone out and made a difference with this knowledge? I can read a bag of chocolate chips and learn how to make cookies. But my oil cap doesn’t tell me what kind of oil to buy, and my quarts of oil don’t tell me how to drain the old stuff and put in the new. The house I rent doesn’t come with instructions on how to pave the potholes in my street. And you better believe that bridges are doing little more than sighing when I roll over them full of trepidation.

So why aren’t we learning about modern technologies more in school? If you want to be a mechanic, a programmer, a networking specialist, or involved in civil engineering, you have to take vocational specialized classes in high school to get exposure. Had I pursued my every interest in high school, it would have taken me seven years to graduate. That’s true of everyone.

Unless you intend to make a career out of these things, they don’t have time for your interest. Yet we would all benefit from a larger percentage of the population having a basic knowledge of how bridges and roadways work, how water delivery is executed to large cities and removed rural areas, how a computer is assembled and how its programs communicate, and how the ignition sequence in a vehicle works.

I was fortunate to grow up around people who were self-taught computer experts and mechanics. It also means I know how easy it is to understand the basic principles of so many “specialty” subjects.

We need to expose our children to these things rather than how to pay for them.

The more people get involved, the more great ideas and solutions there are. Our current model seems to me just to support oppression through ignorance, in a world where our “most educated” citizens are dependent on Chris the computer repairman and Andrew the mechanic.

Sarah Eckrich is a sophomore majoring English writing with a minor in environmental studies and can be contacted at seckrich@lhup.edu




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