What Public School Did Teach Me

Dear Reader,

I recently wrote a post about all that public school does not prepare students for, including important emotional development and life skills (more here). Today, on a more positive note, I would like to share some of the obscure knowledge that I did learn (and actually retained) from my public-school education.

Marfan Syndrome

Learned: 6th grade science class

Marfan syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects around 200,000 people in the U.S. per year. This peculiar disease affects the heart, eyes, blood vessels, and bones and has a physical effect on its carriers. Often those with Marfan syndrome are tall and thin with uncharacteristically long limbs, fingers, and toes. Additionally, those with this disease have loose joints, which makes them unusually flexible.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Learned: 10th grade world civilizations class

Who is interested in woman’s rights advocates?? Born in London in 1759, Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer whose most prominent work focused on the role of women in society. She was seen as radical as she encouraged women to care more about politics and the state of humanity rather than their appearance and on other frivolities. In this same vein, she believed that marriage between a man and a woman should be on the basis of friendship rather than on physical attraction. Another fun fact about Mary Wollstonecraft is that she is the mother of Mary Shelley the author of Frankenstein.

The Properties of Magnesium

Learned: 8th grade science class

Are you a fan of magnesium? If you are health conscious, you are probably already aware that magnesium is critical to your body’s bone function. Outside of the body, magnesium has many other interesting properties and uses. Magnesium (Mg) is a shiny gray element located in spot number 12 of the periodic table of elements. When magnesium is burned it becomes extremely hot and emits a brilliant white light. The temperature of this metal is so hot that it is often used as the rod core when welding underwater. Magnesium is so, so hot, in fact, that you will require special chemicals to extinguish it manually, or, just let it burn out. I remember so much about magnesium because, for some reason, my 8th grade science teacher (rather absurdly!) put on a welding mask one day and burned a small strand of magnesium in the classroom so we could see the bright white light of the flame.

The Schwa Vowel

Learned: high-school choir class

Why is it that Maryland is not pronounced Mary-land, but Mar-uh-land? Similarly, why do we not call a calorie a cal-or-ie. You can thank the schwa vowel for this. In English, we have a tendency to reduce the vowel sounds on certain unstressed syllables. The addition of the schwa vowel is a form of vowel reduction and simply is implemented for ease of pronunciation. Another example of this phenomenon is in the word “participate.” Native English speakers upon seeing the word will universally say “par-ti-suh-pate” rather than “par-ti-see-pate.”

If we literally remembered everything that we learned in school, I am positive that we would all be well-rounded and seemingly highly-educated individuals. As I sit here and write this I reminisce about learning moles in chemistry, sine/ cosine/ tangent in geometry, the gerund in English, and even the presidency of James K. Polk (does anyone remember 54° 40′ or Fight??). I have lost so much precious knowledge from the days of my youth that I will likely never need to know again…. Maybe, one day my hypothetical distant-future grade-school-aged children can help me fill in the gaps 🙂

Love,

Raven

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