Tuesday, 18 October 2016

5 Things They Should Teach In School.

I had a real love-hate relationship with school (and yes, that picture above is my actual school). I loved hanging out with friends in the lunch hall, and I hated everything else. Okay that's a bit dramatic, but I did spend a lot of time skiving off school cause I just couldn't be arsed with it. I just didn't see how a lot of what I was being taught would be relevant to my life in any way and spoiler alert - it wasn't. It'd make a lot more sense if schools taught us some more practical things. 

1. Finances

Don't get me wrong, I hated maths (hello 22% in my prelim) and I would never advocate for more of it, but maybe they could cover the parts we'll actually need in life? Like how about you explain taxes for me? Like why did I spend two years being emergency taxed despite repeated attempts at trying to contact HMRC? This would be particularly useful for those of us who go on to become self-employed, because I've seen those 'tax doesn't have to be taxing' adverts and I'm pretty sure you're lying, Moira Stuart. While we're at it, would you mind telling me what tf a mortgage is, how I go about getting one of those bad boys, and what I'm supposed to be looking for to get a great deal? I may be nearly 27 but I feel like I'm 15 - HELP ME I NEED AN ADULT. Remind me again about pensions? I mean I know it seems like a lifetime away but I've heard they're gonna be pretty important. And about those credit cards... As you can see, I am far from financially minded, and a little bit of help 10 years ago would have probably been useful. 

2. Mental Health

In school I learnt absolutely nothing about mental health. Even though we had a class called 'Personal and Social Education', we seemed to use that time to watch very generic videos on sex ed (more on this in a minute) and have our Guidance teacher try and subtly grill us on who was taking drugs. Obviously, I started high school 15 years ago (wow okay I'm old as hell) so things have hopefully progressed from there, but given the fact that the stigma is still a huge issue I'm not that convinced it's happening. I also worry that there's just too narrow a focus; anxiety and depression are major issues that many people suffer from, but they aren't the only types of mental illness, and we need to open up the dialogue. How many of us either self-harmed or saw someone we cared about doing so when we were teenagers? Who was there to talk to about that?!

I'll share something I don't think I've ever told anyone - when I was in about 3rd year (around 14/15) I was 'reported' to my Guidance teacher by a concerned friend who'd found out I was self-harming. What did this teacher do? Called me in for a meeting where she asked "Is everything okay at home?" and practically pushed me out of the door as soon as I said yes. She was busy, and this was awkward for her. She clearly felt uncomfortable discussing something like that, but it's too important a subject to just brush under the rug anymore. When you teach an adolescent that this is something that is 'shameful' to talk about, that carries on into later life! I know that this incident definitely impacted me, and I was so much more reluctant to get help for my issues because of it. But we need to be educating teenagers about these issues, especially when so many of them begin to show symptoms around this age. 1 in 4 of us will develop a mental illness at some point, and I think it's ridiculous that we aren't talking about mental health issues with people who might already be at risk.

3. Sex Ed

Now I know that most schools already teach sexual education, but do they really teach the things we need to know? I watched about a thousand videos explaining how periods worked, which is all well and good but we were segregated from the boys in our year, ostensibly to avoid embarrassment when they handed out 'period packs' of a couple of sanitary towels and some tampons. I always assumed that the boys were just getting taught about vaginas and wombs in a separate room, but then earlier this week I saw these tweets:

I'm sure a lot of us saw this idiot's tweets, and while I'm like 90% sure he's trolling, it does bring up an interesting issue. I can't be the only person who's met someone genuinely convinced that urination comes out of the vagina, so these tweets aren't that outrageously hard to believe. There are so many misconceptions out there in regards to anatomy that it just seems like sex ed isn't working.

And yet on the flip side, when you do have anatomy-based sex ed, that's all you get. Like I could name you pretty much all of the tubes and chambers (lol chamber of secrets) involved in getting pregnant, but is that really helpful to focus on when it is so rarely the motivation for sex? Not every chat about sex has to focus entirely on STIs and unplanned pregnancies (although obvs this is hugely important to talk about!) to attempt to 'scare' people. Like Jesus, while you're chatting away about fallopian tubes maybe, just maybe, you could mention the clitoris and let people who have them get in on the fun?

There's so much room for discussion: let's talk about relationships, let's talk about the emotional side of sex, let's talk about how to make sure everyone involved is enjoying it (steady on though, no-one wants to talk about doggy style with the Deputy Head). We could maybe discuss some other contraceptive methods that aren't just condoms or abstinence (we genuinely had a talk by a woman who kept stressing how the only way to not get pregnant is to not have sex... helpful, thanks). We need to be teaching kids about different sexual orientations, about how trans people, y'know, exist, and about the issues faced by the LGBTQA* community (we were lucky if homosexual relationships were even hinted at in my day - did I really just say 'in my day' like I'm 80?!). 

We NEED to discuss CONSENT, We were all taught to fear the strange man in the street (we literally had to watch videos of creepy guys flashing kids from their cars or touching them up on the bus) but we don't talk about the very valid issues of consent in relationships, intoxication and the inability to give consent, and the difference between 'not saying no' and saying yes. We all have a responsibility to ensure the safety and comfort of our sexual partners, so why the hell are we staying quiet on this one?!

Sex ed is failing us, and we aren't being taught what we need to know.

4. Uni & Work Life

What most of my last year at high school revolved around was writing our UCAS personal statements. Like we genuinely had entire periods of our day dedicated to getting our applications done. We were brainwashed into the idea that the right thing to do after high school was to go to university. That's indeed what I did do, and thankfully for me I loved it, but there other valid options that were completely glossed over. Uni isn't for everyone, and that's fine! We weren't really given any other options though, which I really hope has changed since then!

In terms of work, we were shown countless times how to write a CV and cover letter, which was really helpful. I would just like it a bit more if schools also showed us how to prepare for interviews properly, and how to ace them to get the job. 

The other thing I really wish I'd been taught was how to avoid being taken advantage of in work situations. I know that I really got the piss taken out of me working in minimum wage jobs where they quite often had me working full time hours, but on a part time contract. I wish I'd been taught my rights properly, so that I could say no without worrying about keeping my job. I'm sure it's the same for many bloggers and creators now, who are often offered 'exposure' for their work, as if exposure pays the rent.

5. Self-Defence

This might sound like an odd one, but when I think back to P.E. in high school, all I remember were weekly pretences at games of rounders, only ever pretending to take a swing if the teachers took a second to stop gossiping with each other long enough to check we were still there. I would hate to count up how many hours of my life I stood in that field, not being taught anything, when I could've been doing something useful. Getting teenagers to partake in some physical activity is never going to be easy, but it's important. However, why not kill two birds with one stone and teach us something we could actually use? We didn't go to a particularly dodgy school, but there was that one time a guy broke in and smacked a pupil over the head with a metal bar (yes, literally assaulted a 14 year old in his classroom) so perhaps alongside the massive security doors that swiftly got installed, we could've had some life skills taught to us? I'm sure we've all seen a school fight or two, and we've definitely all heard horrible stories; self defence classes would've got us moving, but also given us a sense of confidence and security that we could carry forward. I mean they probably don't want us beating the living shit out of each other, but it can't be any worse than what we did during hockey games...

So that ended up being a bit ranty in the middle there, didn't it? I know that teachers work extremely hard and they have a really tough time of it (my dad was a teacher) so please don't think that I'm having a go at them directly (apart from those P.E. teachers, they did nothing). I'm just talking about the curriculum they are forced to teach - there are definitely improvements that can be made. Although, again, I'm talking about my experiences from 10 years ago so chances are this has all been addressed, and this post was totally pointless. Oh well!

What do you guys think about my suggestions? Do you have any thoughts of your own on what should be taught in schools?

Find the rest of my Blogtober posts here!


  1. Yes to all the above, especially the finances,.,, they should also have one on things like how to work a washing machine, and how to do a weekly food shop without buying all the crap lol

    Erin || MakeErinOver

  2. I love this and totally agree with everything you've mentioned! I went to an all girls school so we didn't get segregated for sex ed but that always seemed silly to me (like, there are only two sets of bits?) and it's so important for boys to be taught about female anatomy, too - I literally had to explain to an ex of mine how the pill worked. And don't even get me started on emergency tax codes!!!!!

    Jess xo | The Indigo Hours

  3. Interesting post! I really do hope things have moved on since we were at school but doubt they have. Sex ed was definitely the worst. We had biology lessons, period talks (also segregated) and then a hilarious video on abstinence where two teens were playing twister by a log fire I kid you not!!! Such a joke. Taught us nothing! Luckily for us in sixth form we did have finance lessons so that was useful!


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