Look Back In Anger – And Nostalgia

The weirdest things formerly taught in schools

Part one:

In another day and age, girls in public school might be separated to learn sewing and cooking in home economics class, while boys went to shop class to learn carpentry and mechanics skills. Dead languages were taught to understand live ones. Learning how to take proper notes, develop neat handwriting, read sweep-hand clocks and how to actually spell words are among the other weird things formerly taught in schools.

Latin

Schools for the most part no longer veni, vidi, vici the classical languages, Latin and Ancient Greek. True, you can’t use them in your day-to-day conversation but their loss is also our loss. Studying Latin helps us better understand the grammar and vocabulary of other languages, such as English. And many professions have vocabulary steeped in Latin, including law and medicine.

Handwriting

In the era of keyboard, cursive writing classes are on the way out or gone at many schools.  But not all educators are happy about this.

There’s a myth that in the era of computers we don’t need handwriting. That’s not what our research is showing,” says a University of Washington professor who has co-authored studies on the topic and followed the same children every year for five years to track their development. “What we found was that children until about grade six were writing more words, writing faster and expressing more ideas if they could use handwriting—printing or cursive—than if they used the keyboard.”

Home economics

In times past, it was common for boys to take shop classes and for girls to do home economics, where they would learn to cook, fold sheets and so on, so they could become proficient homemakers. Well, presumptions about gender roles have changed and home economics is fast becoming a creaky relic of the past. That said, teaching both girls and boys practical life skills, like how to boil an egg or do their own laundry, might be a good thing.

Shop class

No, shop class wasn’t learning how to become a more proficient shopper. It taught, boys mostly, basic carpentry and mechanics skills. Liability issues, using machines that can lop off digits or ruin eyes, may be one reason that shop and the industrial arts are increasingly falling off the school map.

But a school in North Carolina makes the case: “Shop classes offer students with their hands. They let students test their inclinations toward possible careers in engineering, carpentry, or architecture.”

Typing

As with handwriting, typing is being whited out in schools, with the belief that kids today are born with keyboards in their hands and screens before their eyes. So, gone are the days where students have their fingers poised over typewriter keyboards, with the teacher intoning, “D-d-d, space.” However, even though self-taught youngsters may be reasonably proficient, they would have a great work advantage if they learned to keyboard at full speed.

Dewey Decimal System

The Dewey Decimal System, first introduced in the 1800s, is a numerical system used by libraries to classify their book holdings into subjects and subcategories. Kids needed to get lessons from librarians to learn how to use it, thumbing their way through card catalogues, so they could research school papers and other projects. With the internet, Dewey Decimal is now skipping class. Even librarians are questioning the need to teach it.

Dodgeball

Dodgeball used to be a standard gym class activity, with two teams lining up facing each other and then hurling balls at each other in a contest of elimination. Because some kids have better throwing arms—and accuracy—than others, injuries happened and now schools are increasingly banning the game.

Using slide rules

Before using calculators in math class, we had slide rules to make basic calculations, especially multiplication and division. The rulers, with a central sliding slip marked with logarithmic scales date back to the 17th century. They fell out of use in the 1970s when mass-produced pocket calculators became widely available. The last slide rule was manufactured on July 11, 1976.

Reading Analog Clocks

Elementary school students used to be taught that when the small hand was at three and the big hand at six that it was 3:30 and perhaps time to go home. A new generation raised on digital readouts, have trouble dealing with analog time-telling. So much so that some schools have actually removed analog clocks because mystified kids were turning up late for classes and exams.

Etiquette

Etiquette hasn’t been part of school curricula for a long time. However, some experts believe it would do kids good to get lessons in class to supplement what they are learning, or not learning, at home. How to do a proper handshake, tie a tie, and address your elders, are good things to know.

We’ll have some more nostalgia later.

Workin’ Like A Dog

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A local business was looking for office
help. They put a sign in the window,
stating the following: “Help Wanted.
Must be able to type, must be good with
a computer and must be bilingual. We
are an Equal Opportunity Employer.”

A short time afterwards, a dog trotted
up to the window, saw the sign and went
inside. He looked at the receptionist
and wagged his tail, then walked over
to the sign, looked at it and whined.

Getting the idea, the receptionist got
the office manager. The office manager
looked at the dog and was surprised, to
say the least. However, the dog looked
determined, so he led him into the
office. Inside, the dog jumped up on
the chair and stared at the manager.
The manager said “I can’t hire you.
The sign says you have to be able to
type.” The dog jumped down, went to
the typewriter and proceeded to type
out a perfect letter. He took out
the page and trotted over to the
manager and gave it to him, then jumped
back on the chair. The manager was
stunned, but then told the dog “The sign
says you have to be good with a
computer.”

The dog jumped down again and went to
the computer. The dog proceeded to
enter and execute a perfect program,
that worked flawlessly the first time.
By this time the manager was totally
dumb-founded!

He looked at the dog and said “I realize
that you are a very intelligent dog and
have some interesting abilities.
However, I still can’t give you the
job.” The dog jumped down and went to a
copy of the sign and put his paw on the
sentences that told about being an Equal
Opportunity Employer. The manager said
“Yes, but the sign also says that you
have to be bilingual”.

The dog looked at the manager calmly and
said “Meow”.

***

And now for a ‘real’ funny bilingual joke.

Years ago, Charles DeGaulle of France visited Canada. He is still remembered for his ill-mannered and inflammatory shout from a Quebec City hotel window, of, “Vive le Quebec libre.” (Long live Free Quebec.)

Before he arrived, applications were accepted for a post as his driver, to chauffeur him wherever he went.   Aside from the usual requirements, strength, intelligence, firearms and martial arts abilities, driving and map skills, the successful applicant had to be bilingual.

The job was given to Angus MacKinnon, of Nova Scotia, who fluently spoke both English….and Scottish/Canadian Gaelic.

***

Now Just Back Up A Second!

Backspace

Why is there a backspace key on the keyboard? Actually, my PC doesn’t have one, clearly marked ‘Backspage’bBackspace’, handily located in the lower right corner of the keyboarkeyboard. Mine is an inconvenierinconverinconveniently located button in the upper right, vaguely labelled(?) with a left-pointing arrow.

The backspace key is obviously therthere so that we can go back and correct our typing errors. Mine usually gets quite a waorkoutworkout. I’d have never passed a high school typing test. With words or strokes being subtracted for errors, I’d have ended up owing words.

Mistype

As I get older, it gets worse. Sometimes it’s as if my hands have a mind of their own. This shows up especially when I’m doing crossword puzzles. Clue – wondrous….solution – epic. The mind says, “That’s spelled E>>>PE…P…I…C” – and I look down, and my fingers have already written the C where the E should be. When I’m typing, the lesftleft little finger really likes to add randonrandom a’s.

I recently read a post like this, where the author had been challenged to publish a document, with strikethroughs to show where mistakes had been made. Like him/her, in several cases, the hands automatically backspaced and corrected, but I then retyped thmistakesthe mistakes to show where they’d been.

How about you, my faithfifaithful readers? Are you all perfect typists, with no strikethroughs? Would any of you like to accept this secodsecond-hand challenge, and publish a little missive to show how much you go through to bring us your perfect prose?

Fat typist