Primary Schooling Falls Short

In a recent radio clip, This American Life explained the confusion and complications of credit default swaps. The program generally broadcasts to people in their 50s, so when a teenager, without 50 years of experience, is first introduced to this subject, the idea is completely foreign. Until a senior year economic course, the students of Miramonte High School, generally speaking, have no background in this subject whatsoever. Credit default swaps may be one of the most complicated concepts of economics, but even the basics in economics are confusing at first.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Students should be exposed to these ideas at a younger age to make learning easier and complex topics more understandable. This policy should not only be implemented for economics, but also languages, government, and various sciences.

That’s not to say that a kindergartener should be able to recite the implications of monetary and fiscal policy or give a detailed analysis of the causes of the recession, but what if they had a broad sense of how money circulated or knew the basics of our government? Learning should be more gradual and sequential, and therefore more useful. If every year students built upon their previous knowledge, retention would go up.

Imagine taking Calculus BC without a preparatory course like AB or Algebra 2 Trig for that matter. Fortunately, math, especially in the Orinda community, has been stressed from an early age, so learning it has been a steady and progressive process. Many complicated subjects, such as foreign languages, are generally introduced in middle school, or in high school. Language development is easier the younger a student commences the study, so shouldn’t language be introduced in elementary school? In the long-run, retention would increase and learning would be easier.

Our school district is known for its rigorous courses and above average students, which causes an unearthly amount of stress. Administrators are concerned about fixing the problem now, but what if the solution was at the beginning of our educational career? The solution may not be to lighten our current workload, but instead to enhance our curriculum at a younger age.

Kindergarten teachers, while instructing us on how to use scissors, could slide in simple introductory lessons on language, money, or the simple idea of a government. As schooling continues, this information would be enhanced, and by the time students came to high school, the knowledge and retention would be at a higher level.

Studies have shown that if information is not continuously reinforced we forgot about 60% of what we learned in school after three years. With these numbers in mind, our current education system seems to encourage students to simply “learn” for the grade or to pass the next test. Miramonte’s high academic achievements should be the result of learning, and not the goal.

“Whether it is in foreign language, history or biology, the more you learn in that subject when you are in school, the more you are likely to pay attention to that subject matter later in life,” said Psychology teacher Paul Fitzgerald.

“With a stronger educational background you will be more knowledgeable and more interesting for the rest of your life.” This should be the driving force of our education.

Unfortunately, the Orinda school system is constantly constrained by its finances. It is really a matter of revising the curriculum in the early years.

It shouldn’t be that the students waltz through elementary school, have the heat turned up in middle school, coast through their freshman and sophomore years only to have the stress become unrelenting in the junior and senior years. If we actually learned something in the early years, we could hopefully reduce the stress in the later years.

The Editorial Board voted 14-0 in favor