Thursday, January 14, 2010

Five Things I Missed by Skipping Sixth Grade

I didn't go to sixth grade. I went to a small private school that went, at the time, from pre-kindergarten through seventh grade (now it goes through eighth grade), and when I was in school, the sixth and seventh grades occupied the same classroom. I wasn't privy to the discussions about whether or why I should skip the sixth grade, but I will say that I'd have been annoyed to sit through sixth-grade classes if I thought they were doing something more interesting on the other side of the room.

That said, every so often I'll still come across things I don't know, or never learned, because they were part of the sixth-grade curriculum. Last night, for example, I realized that I've never been inside the Virginia State Capitol — which is weird, because I grew up in Virginia and lived there for several years after college, too. I think — I'm not sure of this, but I think — my school's sixth grade class went there on a field trip, which I missed for obvious reasons. If any of my old classmates check in here, can you confirm or refute this?

Anyway, I found this site, which lists the typical course of study for sixth graders, and was relieved to find that I did pick up most of these topics somewhere along the way. But gaps remain, which make me wonder whether I ought to audit a few classes at Gardiner Regional Middle School.

1. World Geography. I like maps — in fact, I'll go so far as to say I'm good at maps — but I am hopeless at geography. Never took it in college, either (it's now a prerequisite for the program I did, and should have been when I was there). I lost on "Jeopardy!" because of my ignorance of world rivers. In ninth grade we did "World Cultures," but that presumed a familiarity with the globe that I didn't have.

2. Personal appearance. The World Book says this should be part of the sixth grade curriculum. Really? In school? While I'm not at all sure that this is classroom material, it is true that my fifth grade classmates spent a lot of sixth grade figuring out the mysteries of Bonne Bell Lip Smackers and curling irons and the appropriate level of fading for blue jeans. My seventh grade class was so small that I only had one female classmate, and she already knew all that stuff; she taught me a few hairstyling tricks, but I never went through that phase of fooling around with makeup and hair products. It's possible that I wouldn't have, even given the opportunity, but it's still a big gap in my knowledge base.

3. Accident prevention. Something else the World Book says we should learn in sixth grade. I'm sure it would have been useful. It would probably be useful even now.

4. Scale drawing. I'm not sure the 6th grade at Baylake Pines did this in math class, but I never learned it. While it's pretty self-explanatory, it's a way of being able to look at things and mentally measure them that I would love to have, and don't.

5. Electricity and its uses. Most of what I know about electricity is self-taught, either through empirical study (don't overload outlets, don't put a 100-watt lightbulb into a 40-watt socket, don't touch live wires with wet hands) or reading (I highly recommend Edison and the Electric Chair, by Mark Essig). Even now, I'd like to take a class on basic principles of electricity. It might come in handy.

What do you remember from sixth grade? What did you read that year?


Sue Lin said...

Pertinent to the comment on Electricity in today's entry: David Zarrow (friend of Ellen, me) has been substitute teaching in Fairfax Co., Va. One of the lessons plans asked the elementary kids, "how did the invention of electricity help reduce crime" (Text answer was better street lighting). One of the kids helpfully provided this answer: "Invention of the electric chair"

AnswerGirl said...

HA! And in fact, Virginia is one nine states with laws that still allow for execution by electrocution; in 2001, the Georgia Supreme Court held that the electric chair constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

AnswerGirl said...

PS — say hey to Dave for me, please!

Mark said...

I love it when my vanity Google Web alerts turn up kind comments about my book. Thanks, Answer Girl!

Mark said...

And to answer your questions: I learned to play the recorder in sixth grade, then promptly forgot. I read "The Stand" (not for class) and remembered the sex scenes rather than the scary ones. My teacher, Mrs. Wagner, played "Bridge Over Troubled Water" during Mass (I went to Catholic school) because she thought it was deep.

AnswerGirl said...

That's very cool, Mr. Essig — thanks for stopping by! I think I read SALEM'S LOT when I was 11, which would have been the summer before 8th grade for me (1977). THE STAND didn't come out in hardcover until the following year . . . and while all my siblings went to Catholic school, I was left to CCD, where we never sang anything good.