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Long Division and Other Things Students Need Before College

Updated on July 21, 2015

First stepping onto a college campus is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. Everything is new. The next four to five years are filled with promise. Unfortunately, most students entering college are horribly unprepared, for one reason or another.

College campuses are supposed to be places of higher learning. (Hence why it is called “higher education.”) What it’s not for, is teaching students how to do things they should of learned years ago. Things like long division. This really shouldn’t be that scary to people. An English major who has mastered basic math should not be seen as impressive. (Seriously, I’ve wowed people.) Students shouldn’t be helplessly glued to their calculators: unable to solve even the most basic equations without one.

It’s called “basic” math for a reason; it’s supposed to be easy. Yet countless people couldn’t tell you what 84 divided by 7 is without using a calculator. It’s pathetic that colleges offer remedial math classes. And it doesn’t stop with just math; remedial writing and English classes are also offered. This really isn’t the responsibility of the college. If I was an English professor stuck teaching remedial writing of all things, I would probably flip a table. Students should not be spending their first semester of college preparing for college.

I’m not the first to say this either. I’ve read other articles and heard other arguments about how absurd this situation is. What I don’t see very often is the call for future college students to be better prepared in other areas in addition to math and English.

For starters, public speaking needs to actually be taught instead of just forced onto students. I didn’t take a public speaking class until ninth grade, and it wasn’t required or even every day. Before and after that, teachers would just throw us up in front of the class with very little to no instruction on how to actually give a speech. This is stupid. Public speaking is really important. It doesn’t just teach how to speak in front of an audience, which is in and of itself a valuable skill, but also the importance of good presence, self awareness, and confidence. These are all important lessons that shouldn’t be delegated to one semester in college and then never again.

Another thing that really needs to be taught prior to college is time management. I’m serious. As a high school student, you have school all day, after school activities like sports or clubs, then you go home and do your homework, go to bed, and repeat.

In college, you aren’t in class all day. In fact, if you’re lucky, you might not have class at all on some days. It’s important to know how to use all that free time effectively. Being a college student really is like having a full time job. (Minus the pay check, benefits, or anything else that constitutes a "job.") It's important to treat your school days like a 9-5 job where you are in the library when not in class. Balancing free time and schoolwork becomes a lot harder when you aren’t mandated to be somewhere from 7-3, and then have parents on your back once you get home. It really does come down to time management skills and self discipline. High schools should require students take something like “How to Adult 101.” My high school had something like that. We learned about things like budgeting and writing checks. There was another class that focused on looking for colleges and exploring career options. You know what we were never taught? Time management. “How to Adult 101” should teach time management.

Lastly, I want to make a case for high school students to learn philosophy. Through out school, all the way up to graduation, there is one correct answer: whatever the teacher wants. Students are expected to memorize and then thought dump everything the teacher said back to them. Questions of clarification are encouraged. Questions that challenge are not.

By the time students get to college, “memorize and repeat” has been hardwired into their brains, so when professors try to get students to really think, the response they get is either blank stares or something so outta left field levels of stupid, they are left staring at the student wondering where it all went wrong.

Then again, if philosophy were taught prior to college, the teacher would just tell everyone what Aristotle or Epicurus meant and expect everyone to accept it. Or just teach about the lives of famous philosophers without actually talking about their ideas, or some other crap. Otherwise young people might learn how to think for themselves. Uh oh. Can’t have that. Imagine the world changes that would come about. Oh look I just realized why students are so poorly educated.

Except for long division. There’s really no excuse for being in college and not knowing how to do simple division without a calculator.


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