I’ve long believed that the stuff they teach children in school is, for the most part, completely useless. I can’t remember the last time I ever needed to use algebra. No employer has ever asked me to recite the periodic table. I’ve never needed to advise any client on the difference between a neutron or an electron, and I’ve certainly never had any use for a supply and demand graph. Ever.
And yet, for years and years, I just sat there in one classroom after another, committing to memory, patiently like a stunned mullet, all this useless information and then spewed it all out at exams. I remember being so pleased when I finally got an ‘A’ in physics, but try asking me now what force has to do with mass and acceleration…
I’m telling you – it was all such a complete waste of my life.
I realized how useless my education had been the day we discovered my father had fainted in the bathroom, and we all stood around him in a complete panic, first yelling at him if he was alright, and then at one another to call the ambulance.
Much later at the hospital, the nurse said that we should have turned Father on his side and raised one leg.
“Really? That’s what you do?” I remember asking. “Huh. They never teach you that at school!”
“This is why you always need to have a doctor in the family!” my mother said.
“Or at least make sure the school teaches you intermediate medical aid!” I told her. “Fat lot of good an A in English literature did me back there in that bathroom!”
This all came back to me the other day when Saffy found herself locked out our flat in her super-sheer nightie, and no hidden spare key. She had to creep downstairs, dash in and out of the shrubbery to get to the guardhouse where she shouted at Sheila, our rotund security guard from Kerala, to call me to come home immediately.
She was so traumatised by the whole episode.
“You know,” she moaned that evening at dinner, still visibly shaking from the experience, “the entire time, all I could think of was why picking locks is not on everyone’s school curriculum! Why don’t schools teach you basic important life skills like that?”
Amanda and I stopped in mid-chew and looked at Saffy.
“Well, it’s true!” she said, noticing our looks. “What would have been more useful to me today – being able to recite by heart that ridiculous death scene in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, or being able to pick open the lock on our front door?”
Amanda gave the matter some thought. “If you’d said this to me a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes and said you were being ridiculous. But I’m kind of with you on this one!”
Saffy’s bosom inflated with the unexpected validation and support. “I know, right?” she puffed with pleasure. “And the other thing they should teach you in school is how to hotwire a car!”
Amanda frowned. “Why would you need to know that?”
“Well, some crazy maniac might have chased me into a car-park and I need to escape! There’s not much point being able to pick open a car door if you can’t start the damn thing to get away, is there?”
As logical arguments go, this one was pretty much air-tight.
“Aiyoh!” Sharyn said when we told her about our plans to revamp the educational syllabus. “You all criminal, is it? Where got teacher teach you to break in, one?”
“Not break in, Sharyn,” Saffy said. “Pick a lock and hotwire a car for emergencies, and life and death situations!”
“And how you expect police to know the difference?” Sharyn said, her magnified eyes peering owlishly at Saffy from behind her thick spectacles.
“Well, all I can say is that you’d better hope you never get chased by a crazy axe-wielding murderer in a deserted car-park on a Sunday night!” said Saffy, a huge fan of violent slasher movies.
“Aiyah, if got such thing, I oh-so cannot run, lah!” Sharyn said. She lifted her foot. “You see, I got big blister on my foot. So painful, how to run?”
Saffy leaned in to inspect the angry red spot on Sharyn’s heel. Amanda and I pulled back.
“Oooh, that’s horrible, Shazz!”
“Abuden? I scared go see doctor! Confirm he give me injection, one!”
“You see?” Saffy said, straightening up. “This is another thing they should teach you in school – how to treat a foot blister!”
“I guess it’s called medical school,” Amanda offered.
Saffy sniffed and said we must all write to the Ministry of Education and complain.