Time Wasted In School Part 4: The Core Classes


In part 1 of this series, I examined all of the time spent outside of class during the 7 total hours in the school building.
Part 2 showed how no time is spent teaching during study halls.
Part 3 described the wasteful nature of electives.
In part 4, we will be moving on into the core classes. Surely less time is wasted in such important classes as Math, English, Science, History, and foreign language.
It’s harder to actually assess how much time was wasted in these classes, as it would fluctuate depending on teacher and time of year. However, in pretty much every class I’ve been in, only about half the class is actually spent on actual instruction.
What I’ve learned about teachers, is they like to talk. I may have had to teach myself most of Honors Algebra II, but I did learn a lot about my teacher’s personal life and personal opinions on social issues.

For example, she once expressed her opinion that she didn’t think it right that the woman should always have to take her husband’s last name when married. This led to class time being consumed with debate on a social issue, not mathematics. Debate is nice, but not when you’re paying a lot of taxes to be taught Math.
What was especially frustrating was when we would get to the end of the class time and the teacher hadn’t finished teaching all the material. She would blame us for being too talkative, and then just tell us to figure out the rest of the material for ourselves and do the homework (homeschooling). 

There was no going back. She couldn’t teach the rest of the material the next day because that would put us behind schedule and we would never cover all of the yearly material.
So if we ran out of time, we ran out of time. Missed something? Too bad, you must learn it on your own, or not at all.  
In my AP chemistry class—which was two periods long (an hour and a half)–the entire first period was spent going through a boring and confusing power point. Several of my classmates would fall asleep during this portion of the class. These weren’t underachievers either. This was AP (college level) chemistry. I struggled to stay awake myself. It was the end of the day, the lights were off, and the teacher was speaking Greek.
The second period of the class was just for us to work on homework. However, since 90% of us had no idea what the teacher had said, we weren’t capable of completing the homework. Instead, we just copied the answers to the homework out of his answer book—which he let us do—then we talked the rest of the class, or worked on homework from other classes. At home, I would then go over the answers and try to figure out how in the world the teacher had arrived at them.
Chem Guy: one of the greatest men of our time, fo sho!
In order to overcome the lack of teaching, I bought an online Chemistry course to help teach me, and I watched a lot of youtube videos by “Chem Guy” (who was my Chemistry savior).
I spent about two hours every night on chemistry homework, and was getting nothing from class. I essentially had to teach myself college chemistry as a sophomore in high school.
The result? I got an “A-” in the class, but only a 2/5 on the AP test, which means I didn’t get college credit, which was a major point of the class. It also goes to show that grades don’t always reflect learning. One would think that an “A-” in the AP class would correlate to passing the exam. Not the case, and yet grades are all that matter in the public school system.
Many times I questioned myself about what the point of even having a teacher was if you just had to learn everything on your own, anyway?
Of course, not everyone did learn on their own, and these were the people who would get the “B”s and the “C”s. Sure, some of the responsibility is on them for not putting in the work, but they are were expecting to be taught. The students who received all “A”s; they succeeded because they got a tutor, or they spent an inordinate amount of time doing homework and studying and learning on their own.
Again, nearly all of my classes could be cut in half, with half the time spent   on instruction, or “teaching,” and the other half spent on doing homework or figuring it out on your own—or more commonly—burning time. So much time was wasted.
This 50/50 split wasn’t true in all of my classes. I did have one class that was chock-full of fun and productive teaching and instruction, but that was a very unique and exceptional class. Because of this common 50/50 split in time, our 4 hours and 15 minutes of remaining educational instruction time is cut down to approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes.
This isn’t all the time spent learning, but it’s all the time spent being given instruction by teachers, which is supposedly what sets public school apart from homeschooling.
All the other learning that takes place during the school day is generally left up to the student, and quite frequently, students choose not to do homework. You can find ways to get decent grades without doing homework or putting in much effort. Even if you are a hard worker, and do want to commit yourself to learning, it’s hard to learn much in an environment as wasteful and inefficient as the public school system. Public school hurts poor and good students alike.  
Most of my learning occurred outside of class, doing homework or studying the textbooks on my own.
Sound like a typical day of homeschooling?
Ever wondered how kids could be locked away inside the school building for hours on end and still have more work to do at home?
 It’s because the system is so inefficient, and wasteful. There shouldn’t be a need for homework, but there is.
Also, what should be noted is that there was much that was not factored into my estimation. I didn’t count all of the times where the “class clown(s)” would act up and cause the teacher to hesitate or get distracted and go off on a tangent.
I’m also not counting the times where a teacher would have to have a conversation with a student, “out in the hall,” when the rest of us would just have to sit and twiddle our thumbs in the awkward silence.
There were also school assemblies and pep-rallies, which were a complete waste of time, but we always looked forward to them for exactly that reason—time off from school work. Fire drills, tornado drills, lock-down drills, real lock-downs, delays for weather, early dismissals because of weather are all time wasters, but they did not factor into my estimation.  
Lockdowns: Putting all the kids in one spot so the killer doesn’t have to work as hard.
I’m also not counting the days completely lost to substitute teaching. Days with substitute teachers are rarely productive or educational. Indeed, I’ve had some subs that didn’t even know anything about the subject they had to teach.
Substitutes simply follow the instructions left by the teacher, which means assigning busy-work or telling students to read their text books.
This usually results in an entire class period of teenage socializing.
Following up on a tip from a former public school teacher about the frequent occurrence of substitutes I discovered the following statistics. Up to 10% of teachers are absent on any given school day, and about 5 million students nationwide in some 274,000 classrooms have a substitute teacher on any given school day.
There is a lot of time wasted in public school, and this is not only my belief. Ask a typical student, ask a typical teacher; they’ll tell you the same thing if they’re being honest.
They may not have taken the time to actually add everything up, but the majority of people will at least have the vague idea that, “yeah, a lot of time is wasted,” but most students, and even most teachers are okay with this.
Finding ways to waste time has even become an art-form to many students. After all, the alternative to wasting time is actually doing hard work, which isn’t fun.
Also not factored into my estimate is all of the time wasted on false and detrimental instruction, like the views taught in “Health Class” on sexuality, or the teaching that the only significant “achievement”  of Ronald Reagan was the Iran Contra affair, or being taught Darwinian Evolution is science and the reason we’re all here today.
 

SCIENCE!!!

Of the 7 hours spent locked away inside a public school building, approximately only 2 and a quarter of those hours are really spent being given instruction. Nearly 5 hours are wasted.
With all the time wasted in public school, is it any wonder that America is falling behind the rest of the world academically?
Is it any mystery that other nations are outscoring America in every subject?
I recently saw this quote from the writer and Youtube celebrity, John Green: “Let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools even though I don’t personally have a kid in school: I don’t like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.”
Now, Mr. Green’s point is valid, but it is mis-made. What he is really arguing for is education, not public school.
Education is very important.
What Mr. Green must not realize (maybe because he went to a private boarding school, not a public institution) is that public education is a very poor means and environment for acquiring a solid education.
There are much more efficient and cost effective alternatives.
We all know the public education system isn’t working. Even our illustrious president recognizes the current system is a failure, but his solution of throwing more money at schools will not patch up the holes. I’m sure the money would be put to good use, however, like acquiring more flat screen TVs to add to school collections, or possibly the purchase of new computers for students to play “Crush the Castle” on during study hall.
Money will not solve any of the problems which are the fruits of a fundamentally flawed system. That’s like throwing money at a ship building company committed to constructing boats out of Swiss cheese.  
If you’re a homeschooler, I hope this series has equipped you with a better understanding of the reality of the public school system, and provided you with more ammunition to fearlessly articulate the superiority of home education.
Sure, time can be wasted in homeschooling too, but it’s likely the time not being spent on academics is being spent on something that is at least somewhat worthwhile, unlike at public school.
If you’re a public schooler, then I hope maybe your eyes have been opened. Your school is not giving you as much as they say they are. What you do with that knowledge, is up to you.
 

5 Comments

  1. Bravo! A very good finish to the series! (assuming this is the last post in it)

    “…That’s like throwing money at a ship building company committed to constructing boats out of Swiss cheese.”
    I especially loved that line, haha.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing all this, Reagan! I found it very insightful, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

  2. Couldn’t agree more!

  3. You are completely correct. I graduated not too long ago, and remember the ‘down time’ really well. Thanks for another great post!

    Check out my blog at:
    dreamingofperfect.weebly.com

  4. Amazing! You truly did a great job on this. One of my favorites by far.
    I agree with everything you said.

    GO HOMESCHOOLERS!!!!

    Erin

  5. I fully agree that there is lots of time-wasting in school. I was homeschooled till college, and I think it would have driven me crazy to have had to sit through slow classes through my entire academic career. My college classes were fairly academically challenging, though, and caught my attention. I studied foreign languages, so I was learning real skills that have been very practical for me (since I ended up marrying into a Spanish-speaking family and am now moving to China). Foreign languages are, I think, best learned with a “real” teacher or tutor–I've used Rosetta Stone and books, but it is very hard to become fluent without real person interaction. Of course, there are really bad foreign language teachers…and really good ones.

    Do you have any solution for the public school problem, though? I'm, of course, pro-homeschooling, plan to do that with my own children, but if education were left up to parents, many parents simply wouldn't do it or would do a horrible job (I have also known homeschoolers who really didn't meet any basic levels of academic standards). So bad education can take place anywhere, and good education can take place anywhere–it seems it depends very much on the specific teachers, parents, and students involved–and how motivated they are and what their standards are.

    I'm about to start a teaching job at a primary school in China where the class size is 50–that should be quite interesting…

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