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Here is a wonderful article by Stanley Fish. For some time, Fish was my favourite opinion writer. He never stuck to a particular ideological line, but he was always insightful and persuasive, even if he is occasionally a postmodernist. For some reason (I have no idea why) I haven’t read any article by him recently and I had totally forgotten about him.

You won’t get any arguments from me when people say that we should get the careerism, standardised testing and postmodern teaching fads out of high schools, but I sometimes wonder how practical Fish’s approach is. Compulsorily broadening people’s education never seems to quite work. People have to want to study those subjects – and encouraging that seems a more productive course of action.

And I worry about filling a syllabus with unnecessary courses. One of the primary reasons (it appears) that Americans are falling behind in science and math compared to other countries is because even though they spend just as much time at school as other students, so much of their time is spent on courses like Sex Ed, gym etc that they don’t spend as much time on science and math. I think the statistic is that by the end of high school, an American high school student will have done an entire year’s less maths than a Japanese student.

And we’ve all experienced those useless courses that the syllabus occasionally forces down our throats. I’m sure they were great ideas in theory, but in practice, noone took them seriously. Sounds like the Legal Profession (a supposed legal ethics class that taught us nothing about ethics and bored us so much that even thinking of being ethical sends shivers down the spines of any lawyer).

But most importantly, the standard of a course is marked by the standard of the teachers. When I learned Australian history in year 10, I was so bored by the Federation course that suicide seemed a real option. When I relearnt it during Public Law, our lecturer did it so brilliantly, I absolutely loved it. How many brilliant lecturers can there be? I think the reason Latin teachers or Constitutional law professors are so brilliant (generally speaking), is because there is no other career option for them so only the best and the brightest teach it. If you make Latin compulsory, you’ll get second-rate teachers teaching the course, diluting its efficacy. Compare that to Finance lecturers (who are invariably crap at teaching) because the brilliant ones go into business.


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