I’ve heard many twenty-somethings complain that they never learned any useful skills in school. The reason for that is simple. School was not meant to teach you useful skills. At best, school is meant to convince you that you need more school. At worst, it’s a daycare. At mediumest, it is meant to prevent independent thought and teaches you to be a good little cog.
Schools tell kids that going to school is about learning how to learn. That couldn’t ever be true, since the subjects they choose to teach are linear. First is algebra, then trig, then calc. If it was simply learning how to learn, we could do them in any order. High schoolers could take algebra. Middle schoolers could take calc. It would be hard, but once you know how to learn, you should be able to do it for any subject. Reading/English class is the least linear subject. There are certain literature books and abstract poetry which are harder to read, but the subject matter isn’t necessarily more complex. I’ve seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy taught as a 400 level class in college. There’s no reason that couldn’t have been a high school class. The actual reason is, interesting books are the reward for uninteresting books. They make kids slog through Thoreau, and as a treat, if they’ve behaved, they may read a book which they actually enjoy. I spent years toughing it out with biology, chemistry, and physics so that I could finally take a class in Modern Physics and a class in Nanophysics in college. Youtube wasn’t really a thing when I was in middle school. But now that it is, and I can learn nearly any subject without waiting.
Why do we go to school for 8 hours? Why not 4 or 12? It’s because our parents work for 8 hours. Eliminating 4 subjects would be an easy task since none of the subjects are actually essential. That leaves kids with 4 hours to get a job washing dishes at a restaurant for the lunch rush or time to read or volunteer at an organization. Of course no adult would go for that since they want strict supervision of kids at all times. Kids need to be babysat to prevent any struggle they might have in their lives.
Kids could learn everything they “need” to know from Coursera or Youtube or Khan Academy in a matter of 4 hours tops. But who will teach them discipline? Who will teach them to wait to be called on, to ask to use the restroom, to sit where they’re told to sit, and leave only when they’re dismissed? What are these future factory workers/ pencil pushers going to do when they grow up and decide what’s best for them? NO! They’ve got to stick it out until they’re 65. Then, and only then can they decide how to spend their time. If we taught kids to write checks, they might learn to be independent. They might move out at only 18! They might waste their time by getting a day job and being an artist at night. They might waste their life by getting a low paying job working for a non-profit. They might accidentally start their own business and not need a factory job at all! The horror!