We need to rethink school

As I get older and older and forget so much more I really start to wonder what use most of what I learned in school was. I love science and I love math and I love history but I barely remember any of the specific things I learned in those subjects because I never had to use that knowledge. Was taking a year of Biology or Chemistry simply to teach me that such subjects exist? If I had not taken them (or Physics) would I still like science?

I think that grade-high school curriculum should be refocused. I think that all those 12 years could be better spent teaching children the following:

  1. how to read and write
  2. basic math
  3. problem solving (how to troubleshoot,  how to look up things, how to engineer a solution)
  4. how to manage your life (balance checkbook, figure out interest rates, read legal documents before you sign them, etc)
  5. relationship management (including treating people with respect, being aware that you aren’t the only human in the world, etc.)
  6. health (including how to eat well and sex education)
  7. creative process (learn that it’s ok to express yourself and learn how to harness creativity through art, music, etc.)
  8. civic responsibility (how to change your world, how to participate in society)

In short, we have all this time to teach children how to survive in this world but instead we leave the important things out and assume that society will teach our children these things. Most don’t learn them at all. Imagine how wonderful a place America would be if all kids when they graduate high school know these things.

Versioning of Webapps

As we move more and more of the work we do to the cloud, we as consumers of these services should demand a way to stay with a specific version. What am I talking about? Well, for example, many of us use Facebook and they are constantly changing the interface and the services behind the interface and many people aren’t happy. The same for gmail and googles calendar app. I’m happy with what I have now and I don’t want to have new ‘features’ or interface designs forced upon me. Clearly I do not pay for these apps so I really have no rights, but still, its inevitable that people will really start complaining en mass and these services depend on users. The makers of these apps should start thinking about how to manage change and how to allow users to lock in to a version they are using. I would pay a little for this. I don’t mind paying for applications as long as they do what I want them to do. What about you?

why do we buy stuff today?

I don’t like what’s happening in the consumer marketing space lately. It seems like because of internet buzz, we as consumers are not able to give feedback to companies the way we used to.  For example, lets look at movies. When was the last time you went to a good movie? Compare that to 5 or 10 years ago. Do you see any differences? Now we just go see whatever is marketed to us and no matter how much it sucks, it still will make money.

Better example,  consumer electronics. The way it used to work in consumer electronics was that someone would build a product and it would either sell or it wouldn’t. If it sucked, we wouldn’t even think about buying it. (Apple Newton anyone?). But now, it seems they have figured out that if you market something well (use blogs and segnents on the news, etc) you can build enough buzz that people think they need to have something because everyone else is excited about it.

This ‘artificially exaggerated consumerism’ is really troubling to me. Think about the iPad or 3d tv. I mean really? These products are not useful to us, but everyone I talk to is excited about them. Why? Think again about the Newton. If it were introduced in todays environment it would sell 10m units in a week.