There are too many problems with the American education system to fit them all in less than an entire book even, so one Amandy blog will not suffice. That said, revising the curriculum a bit to include some essentials that we all missed in school could really benefit society. This came to my mind in yoga teacher training when we discussed the Eight Limbed Path. The Eight Limbed Path is from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the sacred text that guides yoga and helps us to lead a more meaningful and purposeful life. I know most of you are hearing the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher right now as you read this but I will make it relevant. So, starting with the Eight Limbed Path, I give you:
The Things They Should Have Taught Us in School
1. The first two limbs of the Eight Limbed Path from Yoga Journal are in this font then my translations are underneath in bold green (’tis the season).
First Limb: Yama
“The first limb, yama, deals with one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'”
Be who you are but don’t be an ass hole.
The five yamas are:
Honor peace in all ways, including how you deal with your own body.
Be up front. Say what you mean. Do what you say you’ll do. See also.
Respect others’ EVERYTHING including their time, the bumpers on their cars, their quiet, their spouses, and everything that doesn’t belong to you. And life is brief. What really belongs to you, anyway?
Brahmacharya: moderation or continence
One brownie is enough. You know it. I know it. We all know it.
Wanting is a waste. Be happy with what you have. Love the one you’re with.
Second Limb: Niyama
Niyama, the second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Regularly attending temple or church services, saying grace before meals, developing your own personal meditation practices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice.
Take a damn breath sometimes. Slow down. Put your phone down and give your eyes and brain a break.
Bathe as much as your bodily odors require. Also, get your mind out of the gutter.
Every little thing is gonna be all right.
Tapas: heat; fiery strength
Try. Try hard.
Svadhyaya: study of the sacred scriptures and of one’s self
Know who you are, especially before you impose yourself on others. Read, too.
Isvara pranidhana: surrender
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Let some things go. Sometimes fate decides.
(back to the original list)
2. What is the stock market? The other day, one of my scholars asked me this question. I looked at her with one of my blankest stares and replied the only way I could, “I don’t know.” Usually when I have to tell one of them I don’t know, I say that we can look it up together but I wouldn’t even know how to do that.
I have a vague memory of an octogenarian coming into our 8th grade history class with a stack of newspapers. He handed out the stock pages and we did god knows what with them. All I know is that I walked out of that room with either the same amount of confusion or maybe a little more. I think Ms. Gibson was just trying to have a day without teaching us since we’d already finished watching the entirety of Doctor Zhivago (for three-four weeks).
3. This one comes directly from Aubrey who is learning this now. “Apply to daycare as soon as you get pregnant, if not before.”
4. If we were interested in how something worked, we should have just been encouraged to take it apart, analyze it, and explore its inner-workings (within reasonable limits). What happens when you turn a key in a lock? What does it look like inside there? I think we should have been allowed to dissect a lock, take a look inside, and just understand why keys work. How are they possibly all different? When do they run out of patterns?
5. This is more for the Catholic school kids out there. You do not have to stay the religion you are born into. Religion is a personal choice, so is faith, and even spirituality.
6. Take care of your feet and your teeth. Ain’t nobody got time for uncomfortable shoes or premature dental work.
7. Again, from Aubs. You do collaborate when you’re in school. You work together. You talk about teamwork. Maybe you all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” You make a poster, create a board game, maybe a PowerPoint if it’s at least 2003 but what they don’t tell you is that your whole adult life is basically one long group project.
8. What is a deductible in insurance? Seriously. I have been told this innumerable times, even by my sister who worked in insurance, by Chas who “knows things,” and by my dad who often serves as my coach through adulthood. But still. I’m confused. Maybe it was too late for me to speak the language of insurance because I didn’t learn when I was a kid.
9. Don’t burn bridges. I know morality training is lacking in schools. My school really tries with this and still, it’s a consistent struggle. But I think if I am targeting what makes a difference from a learning standpoint and an advancement standpoint, kids need to learn from the jump not to burn bridges.
10. Kids need to learn why voting matters, why community service matters, and why activism matters. This all needs to happen before the end of middle school.
11. Animosity is rarely worth the energy. Schools need to teach kids how to deal with their emotions–all of them, especially the ones that can harm others and themselves.
12. Although I hate it and actively avoid it, kids do need to learn how to participate in small talk. This includes the eye contact, the follow up questions they don’t care about the answers to, and even when small talk can be advanced to large talk. I am picturing this like a language course–the same way you practice conversation skills in Spanish class. You’d have a room full of 8 and 9 year olds going through the script.
“Hello, Susan, how are you?”
“Oh I’m fine, Bill. How are the kids?”
“Oh you know, everyone’s just so busy!”
“Now, are you still over at LMNOP?”
“Yep, yep [rocks back and forth on heels] still there. It’s good, good.”
[At a slightly higher pitch] “Good, good.”
“Yea, so how about this cold snap?”
“Oh, yea, pretty crazy! They say if ya don’t like the weather in Maryland, just wait 20 minutes.”
[Both obligatorily laugh]
Wow, sorry I might need to think about that one. I almost threw up in my mouth just typing it.
13. I wish kids knew how to be confrontational in a productive way. I think that a lot of pettiness and hard feelings that adults hold onto are due to the fear of confrontation. If kids learn how to face and deal with problems, imagine their productivity as adults!
14. I’d like to request (demand?) “left and right drills” in all kindergarten classrooms. I’m a 30 year old yoga teacher still using jewelry to know which hand and foot I am cuing.
15. Budgets. Time budgets, money budgets, friend budgets, social media budgets. Kids would be better off if they learned how to split all of this stuff up evenly.
16. The Internet. Social media. May all that is holy help our children. One lesson would be: if you post or send naked pictures of yourself to one person, he will 99% of the time not be the only recipient. Another: when you bully people on Snapchat, the vice principal often finds out and she has a lot of other things to do aside from detangle your made-up electronic vendetta. See also: don’t burn bridges.
17. This is going to sound like a joke but I’m not at all kidding. And I saved this one for last on purpose. Kids need to learn how to deal with Comcast. Allow Comcast to stand in for all evil corporations but I dare you to find a worse one. Kids would benefit from the lessons of those tough phone calls. Aubrey could teach this class with her eyes closed.
So for my curriculum revision, I’d start with the Yama and the Niyama and I’d end with the thing that throws all of those spiritual truisms wayyy out the window: problem-solving with Comcast. So maybe our education system is broken, maybe it’ll take generations to fix, more likely it’ll never really be fixed. But can’t we start by adding in a class that teaches kids how to navigate the real world, how to treat people, and what in the world talking heads mean by the Dow Jones and the and the S&P 500?