Rugged Education

19 July 2015

Educational reform is a hot topic in politics. Yet little seems to happen. The current state of the public education system is largely college-prep. Entire courses are dedicated to standardized testing and advanced science, mathematics, and literature. We’re enabling a strong white-collar workforce, but we’re cultivating a society incapable of basic competency. That’s bad.


So I open a new discussion for the political theatre: rugged education.


K – 12 public education could benefit from a more rugged curriculum that focuses not strictly on challenging academic subjects, but on directly applicable skills and understanding. This proposal stems from a belief that publicly-available education should prepare all citizens to be informed and capable members of society. For instance, woodworking and home economics could replace biology or pre-calculus as required courses. These more hands-on and directly applicable subject areas could provide more benefit for people under the age of eighteen. For this reason, I propose the following curriculum:



Whether its basketweaving or small engine repair, all people should be given the opportunity to learn the basics of a craft. In this subject, students could learn about woodworking, plumbing, welding, sewing, or a variety of other physically-constructive trades. With a perfunctory understanding of these skills, students could be more confident in pursuing a trade upon graduation or making basic repairs on their property.



Healthy diets are becoming increasingly mainstream, and most of these movements embrace organic and small-scale farming. Pupils would learn the basics of gardening and plant care as well as how to care for and raise animals. In addition to growing food, students would also learn techniques for cooking and baking.



This subject may be the most dull, but it could be the most beneficial (even lifesaving) for contemporary citizens. Coursework would educate pupils on navigating paperwork—from reading online content to filing taxes, leasing an apartment, understanding insurance, and saving and investing money.



Everyone has heard “chivalry is dead.” Manners, tactfulness, and the ability to hold an interesting face-to-face conversation has dwindled. The coursework and structure of this subject would be basically teach pupils how to survive happy hour. They’d learn about gift-giving customs, event management, vocal tonality, how to read people, communication, and basic psychology and sociology. There are few programs that exist to foster these essential people skills. A good example is the Art of Charm.


Literature & History

Without history, we’re doomed to repeat it. All citizens should be given the tools to be literate and informed. In this subject, students would read from a wide zeitgeist of classic and contemporary literature, blogs, and news articles to understand culture, history, and politics. Pupils could learn professional and academic writing, so they can later continue self- or higher-education in the future.



This is an abbreviated version of STEM. Through hands-on labs, students would learn how to apply algebra and statistics to both hard and soft sciences; such as chemistry, physics, and computer technology. Intended to spark their curiosity and ability to problem-solve, this coursework would enable to students to pursue personal research or higher-education in a more grounded manner.



Creative expression is important for everyone, as a means of pleasure and reflection. Whether it’s painting, music, theatre, or graphic design, all citizens of the United States should have the opportunity to explore this during their childhood and adolescent education.


Physical Education

Whether through organized sports or personal regiment, a subject dedicated to cultivating physical well-being and strength could have countless benefits on today’s citizens. Teaching the fundamentals of weight training, cardio, and even yoga could benefit many. In addition, providing martial arts training in a public institution could help build confidence for young people.


With this curriculum, all citizens could receive requisite knowledge to be informed, knowledgeable and skilled in all areas of their lives. An education that teaches not only professional collaboration but self-reliance is needed. This education system would target the breadth of education and expose pupils to a variety of industries and interests so they could spend their adult lives honing the depth of one area, creating a citizenship of T-shaped individuals.