Useless Material I’d Take out of the School Curriculum

Making Shit out of Construction Paper
I remember visiting a paper mill some years ago, and seeing pink construction paper being made.  Tons and tons of it, rolling off the machine.   And I remember thinking:  That’s gotta supply every kindergarten class in North America for the next 10 years.

Because really, what good is construction paper?   Other than prevent tantrums and/or kids from killing each other?

Because what better way to distract the little urchins than to give them lame-ass “Arts and Craps” projects that they bring home to Mommy?  (Who then puts them on the fridge, and discards a week later).

We should give our kids paints, paper, and pencils, instead.    Let’s teach them REAL art.

In the mean time, let’s find a better use for our limited supply of trees.


Venn Diagrams
Okay, those were fun in Grade Four.   We took plastic triangles and squares, and divided them up inside circles.


But when, outside school, have we EVER used Venn diagrams in real life?

To this day, I still don’t understand what the point of those God-damned things were.


Learning to Play the Recorder
Okay, let’s set things straight:  there is only ONE decent recorder tune ever made, and that’s the theme from the Friendly Giant.

Aside from that, the recorder is the Lamest.   Musical Instrument.   Ever.

Nothing like a class full of thirty 12-year-old kids, trying to learn how to play “Hot Cross Buns” at the same time.

Things like that make me want to puncture my eardrums with a pencil to end my misery.

I dont’ know what the point of it is, because outside Grade 7, you will NEVER play the recorder again.

This is no good recorder sheet-music.   There are no hot recorder concerts.   There are no decent recorder CD’s  to download onto  your I-pod.

Nope.  There is just NO use for the recorder in our society.

(Except to play the theme song for the Friendly Giant).

And that show is off the air now.


Okay, I know you English Lit majors out there will scream for my blood for  saying this…but seriously, what was the POINT of Shakespeare?

The last time I read Ol’ Bill was in 1982.   When I was in English class…when I had to.

And I don’t miss him ONE bit.

I remember the stories were adequate, at best.   But certainly not good enough to make me run screaming to the bookstore, and ask: “Oooh!  Oooh!  Do you have the latest copy of King Henry the IV, Part II? ”

Call me a heretic, but to be honest,  I much prefer to read Stephen King.

Shakespeare has been analyzed, and re-analyzed, over and over.  He’s had his time.   Let’s stop beating this dead horse into bone dust.

Surely, in the past 500 years, there is some OTHER literature we can force-feed to our kids.


Advanced Geometry
In my senior year of High School, I took this course called “Functions and Relations”.    We learned how to sketch parabolas.   We learned what hyperbolas (hyperbolae?) were, and we could flip-flop them around the x-axis.    It was quite tricky, actually.

And we NEVER used it again.

At the time, I thought I was mature enough to realize that this course was just covering the basics, and in University, I’d soon see what all these silly equations were for.

But like I said…we NEVER used it again.

And I have a PhD in Engineering.

So you can only imagine how useful this was to the kids who went on to study Liberal Arts or Business Admin.

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28 Comments on “Useless Material I’d Take out of the School Curriculum”

  1. Teaching is so hard. I can’t imagine trying to make things work with less.

  2. Friar Says:


    Learning is hard. I CAN imagine getting by with less. (Especially if it’s “Filler” material the we’ll never use again).

    Or let’s replace the same old filler material, with better stuff. 🙂

  3. XUP Says:

    Making shit out of construction paper teaches fine motor skills different from the ones learned with paint and pencils. It also adds a 3-dimensional aspect to art which appeals more to young children than a flat piece of paper to draw on. Once upon a time we’d have them whittle something, but too many kids sliced through an artery and we had to quit that. Trees are a renewable resource.

    Venn Diagrams – I never even heard of Venn diagrams until I started blogging. I must have skipped that class in school. The one about the geeks/nerds/dweebs/dorks came in pretty handy yesterday. It certainly helped me to visualize the differences and similarities.

    The recorder – is a simple, easy-to-play instrument that teaches children the basics of music. From there they hopefully move on to other instruments. We can’t supply every kindergarten class with violins, so this is a cheap alternative. Also, some kids might want to grow up to be Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute. Pan flutes are just a bunch of different sized recorders tied together.

    Shakespeare – Again, Shakespeare, like mythology is foundation literature. Pretty much everything written in English since then was influenced by Shakespeare and makes reference to something Shakespearean at some point — including Stephen King. Heck, Stephen King IS the modern day Shakespeare. Where else do his high tragedies spring from? The themes of punishing hubris? Just like having a background in medieval literature helps you to enjoy Monty Python so much more; having a background in the classics helps you to enjoy modern literature much more.

    I have no comment about the math one. Math IS stupid.

  4. Friar Says:


    I saw…give the kids knives and pieces of wood, and let them WHITTLE. (That would certainly go over very well with the School Board, I think).

    And I know you’re at least as old as me. Which means you’ve had at least 4 decades of a happy, productive life, without having to know what a Venn Diagram is (until now).

    The Pan Flute. Ugh. Don’t get me started. Zamfir is the master. But he’s pretty well filled that niche. The position is filled.

    As for Shakespeare helping us enjoy modern literature much more. Why not use modern literature to help us enjoy Shakespeare instead? (Plus, it would get kids reading more).

    Math isn’t stupid. Just Functions and Relations.

  5. Linda Says:

    Don’t know if Kyddryn will comment, but she learned how to play the recorder and now can play the heck out of it and Native American flutes. As for the rest, yup, I agree. AAANNNNND nowadays they (some educators, at any rate) don’t believe it necessary to teach math because kids have calculators. Nor is it necessary to teach spelling because kids have spell check on their computers. Pretty soon everybody will be spelling like they text.

  6. 3 dimensional art – umm how about building structures with marshmallows & toothpicks. At least you can eat it when you’re done & re-use the toothpicks in the next project. Perhaps building a birdhouse (another 3 dimensional project).
    As for learning to use scissors – let’s sew something. Sewing is good. Everybody needs to know how to repair a seam & stitch a button back on (yet another 3D art project without paper).

    Venn diagrams – still don’t see the point. They do help put things into categories however, I’ve never used them and I’m a professional organizer.

    The recorder – easy instrument for kids to learn on. Once they’ve got the hang of a basic scale they should move on to another instrument – ANY other instrument. If they can’t master the basic scale then perhaps they shouldn’t play anything at all.

    Shakespeare – just read Coles notes. You’ll get more out of it. Harry Potter is much cooler. Stephen King just gives me nightmares. I agree that reading modern literature would help us appreciate Shakespeare more.

    Math isn’t stupid. Just Relations & Functions.

  7. Friar Says:


    Okay…aside from the Friendly Giant, Kyddyn is the ONLY person I’ve heard of (even 2nd hand) who can play the recorder like a real instrument.

    If I ever had kids, I swear, I will NOT let them learn a wind instrument. Especially the recorder. (It’s too painful to listen to them pratice).

    Piano, or acoustic guitar, fine. But anything you put in your mouth and blow…is OUT.

    @Canadian Army Wife

    Okay..if the kids MUST learn a wind instrument, why not the harmonica?

    At least you can make popular music with that. Dylan played harmonica.

    What can you play on the recorder? Except “Ode to Joy” and “Hot Cross Buns.”?

    Regarding Coles notes. Funny you should mention that.

    Our English teachers was so AGAINST us reading them. We were apparently to read the text on our own, and form our “own” opinions.

    But when I flipped through Coles Notes in the bookstore, I found it explained Shakespeare in words you could ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND.

    Not only that, but it pretty much followed the teachers’s class lectures.

    Imagine THAT.

  8. Brett Legree Says:

    School tries valiantly to prepare you for life, often times, it misses the mark – the trick is to teach the kids how to learn on their own.

    I studied chemical engineering, specialized in polymer processing.

    I write for a living, everything I needed to know about that, I’d learned by Grade 10 or so (I had good English / grammar teachers).

    Today I will wear an Oscar the Grouch costume at work.

    Hey kids, that’s what engineers do!

    Venn diagrams are only good for making graphical boob jokes.

  9. Friar Says:


    Like you, I write for a living, too.

    And I must be doing all right, because I’m making a decent salary doing so.

    But you’re right. They stopped teaching us grammar and spelling after Grade 10.

    After that, it was all about analyzing plays for “Pathetic Fallacy” and looking for “Color Symolism” in The Great Gatsby.

    The way some of the kids today write, maybe we should extend grammar lessons a few more years.

  10. XUP Says:

    Okay, when people say Harry Potter is much cooler than Shakespeare I feel I have to step in. (And I apologize in advance for heavifying your light-hearted post). I’d defend not just Shakespeare, but of all the enduring literature (often referred to as the “classics”). Yes, much of it is written in a funny form of English that we don’t readily understand anymore, and we like everything to be instant and easy these days. But, sometimes it’s worth it to make the effort to understand something written hundreds of years ago. Maybe this stuff doesn’t seem like the cracking good story Harry Potter does, but classic literature is a truer picture of our history and our ancestors than you will get in any history book. It shows you what was important to people, how and what they thought, worried about, revered and respected. It helps you understand a lot more than just modern literature; it also helps you understand life. When you read that people in 500AD thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket and that the end was just around the corner, it puts today into perspective. When you read a fuck joke from 1200 AD – well the feeling of connection is indescribable. Literature is a record of our humanity. And just like it’s important to know about and make real a connection to our parents and grandparents and greatgrandparents; so it’s important to know about and make real our greater connection to humanity.

  11. Friar Says:


    Ooh. Now that’s just TOO DEEP for me today.

    Studying Literature to make a “greater connection to Humanity”.

    I guess all those aboriginal tribes who never developed a written language are S.O.L, then? 🙂

    That’s the problem, I think, with the way literature is taught in school. Why can’t we just read a story or play, and enjoy it for what it is…

    No. The Tortured Intellectuals have to analyze it with a microscope, and use big words ending in “ism” to explain to us why what we’re reading is so important.

    Way to suck all the fun out of reading, and discourage kids from picking more books.

    Shakespeare wrote his stuff to entertain the masses. I mean..they’re PLAYS…for crying out loud.

    If he was alive today, I bet you he’d be shitting kittens, if he knew how the PhD’s were dissecting his work.

  12. XUP Says:

    Aboriginal tribes had oral literature to help them connect to their humanity. Stories passed down from generation to generation have been a very, very important part of pretty much every culture. We happen to have our stories written down. Which makes thems so much easier to ignore. I’m not saying you have to analyze the shit out of a novel or a play. I don’t like the way some of this stuff is taught either — especially in high school. You can totally feel the connection just by reading. Like wandering through a museum of artifact from old timey days will give you a connection to humanity. It makes you realize that it’s not all about you. That you’re just part of something that has been around for a long long time and will be around for long after you’re gone. For me, that’s a comforting and inspiring feeling.

  13. Brett Legree Says:

    (Since we’re talking about Mr. Shakespeare now) my feeling on his work is that you lose too much of it just by reading it.

    You have to go *see* it live, you know, the way people heard the stories “way back when”.

    I have done that, and yes, it was much more enjoyable. I thought that captured the true feeling of the work better than just reading it.

  14. Friar Says:


    Good discussion today. (Am I sensing another blog post on your part?) 🙂

    Funny how we feed off each other. Today’s post was inspired by the Venn Diagram discussion on your blog, from yesterday.

    I never know where these comment threads are going to go.


    I admit, Shakespeare IS a lot more fun seeing it live…as it was intended to be seen.

  15. XUP Says:

    I thought about it doing a blog post, but I’m not sure there’s much more to be said right now. I’ll probably work it into something one day soon, though. And, ya Shakespeare really was meant to be performed and seen, not read. But I like to read it once in a while anyway. I think he’d be totally blown away by what’s happened to all those crumpled pages of old scripts he left behind 400++ years ago

  16. Eyeteaguy Says:

    What XUP said.


  17. Friar, I’ll concede on construction paper, the recorder, (LOVE the idea of substituting the harmonica!) and advanced geometry, but the Venn Diagram is useful as a way of categorizing and comparing things. I may not draw it, but it’s there in my head.

    And Shakespeare? Fie on that teacher who refused to let you use Coles Notes. And I’m with you 100% on despising those who dissect his work and label it with isms. You and your commenters are right when they say his work must be seen to be fully appreciated, so students should be exposed to the plays on stage or film.

    One of my requirements for a mate was that he have an excellent knowledge of the canon, and a sincere commitment to see the plays wherever, whenever one was on. I scored big time, marrying a political scientist who can help me untangle all the genealogy in the history plays. We go quite often, because in addition to Portland, we have some wonderful Shakespeare festivals out west – Ashland, Oregon, Cedar City, Utah and Boise, Idaho.

    My son is in rehearsals for Twelfth Night, playing Malvolio. I loved what XUP said about the fuck jokes. My son’s high school teacher has edited out a number of the naughty bits, much to the sorrow of the students.

    Although we attend plays by other writers quite often, there are very few who are as satisfying as the Bard. Tom Stoppard, maybe. But I think he is Shakespeare reincarnated. Oh, and Bill Cain, writer of the excellent Equivocation –

    PS I like your blog very much! I’ll be back!

  18. Friar Says:


    How about what I said?

    @Fantastic Forrest
    Welcome to the Deep Friar! Always nice to see a new face (who hasn’t become corrupted yet!) 🙂

    I have seen Shakespeare performed in Stratford, Ontario. Which is known for the quality of it’s plays. It was pretty decent.

    But that’s an entire day’s drive from where I live right now. I doubt the local talent will do The Bard justice.

    So I guess I’ll continue reading my Stephen King, then.

  19. Eyeteaguy Says:

    What you said was crap. What XUP said wasn’t.


  20. @Friar
    My mother bought my kids a harmonica for Christmas one year. Trust me, the recorder was peaceful in comparison.

  21. Friar Says:


    Yeah, but at least my crap is CONSISTENT.

    C’mon. You gotta give me points for THAT.

    @Army Wife

    I think children should be banned from using all wind instruments, until age 18.

    Maybe this will deprive some of them from learning music skills at a young age. But so be it.

    Better THAT, than the rest of us being forced to listen to all that squawking and squeaking.

  22. Eyeteaguy Says:

    I award you 1 point.

    But i take away 2 points for asking for points.

    Best keep quiet next time.

  23. Friar Says:


    Yah, but my comments lately have barely hit the 30 mark.

    So you’re obviously not doing your job as instigator/motivator/shit-disturber.

    No bonus for you, this week.

  24. Eyeteaguy Says:

    You really shouldn’t have said that……

    I don’t need you, but you need me.

    If this was a real blog I’d be getting paid even if my results are shit. Kinda like the goverment but with better hours.


  25. Friar Says:


    If you don’t need me, howcum you spend so much time hanging out here?

    This is just a D-List blog. Surely there are better places you can visit. Where the comments are kept curteous, timely, and on-topic.

  26. Eyeteaguy Says:

    I don’t spend much time. Just read your latest lame ass comment, fire off a quick reply, get my 50 bucks and move on.

    ” Surely there are better places you can visit. Where the comments are kept curteous, timely, and on-topic” Like XUP’s blog? Yes, I visit there quite frequently thank-you, for free, she doesn’t need me. She actually writes things worth readinhg.


  27. Friar Says:


    Well, I’m the same way. I write a quick blog. I check to see YOUR latest lame-ass reply to my lame-ass comment, and I move on.

  28. Eyeteaguy Says:

    That’s the funniest thing you’ve written all year.

    Sad, really.

    At least you have cartooning to fall back on. And you don’t have far to fall either.


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