A few things have made me think of the following this past week - the fact that students leave their 13 years of public schooling and don't know things people (some? most?) think should be basic. Then the people are shocked or upset or start thinking "the education system is broken!" "teachers are bad!" "what are they thinking!" "in my day, we learned these things!".
Some examples that I came across:
* Many teens can't read an analog clock.
* There are teens that still don't know their multiplication tables easily.
* There are teens/people that can't distinguish between (pick your favorite): your/you're, there/their/they're, lose/loose, its/it's, etc.
* Teens can't read or write cursive.
* Teens can't easily manipulate fractions.
I see these things in my students. I teach students in high school. I feel like I'm rushed to cover particular curriculum that is relevant to the course. I am guilty of shaking my head at their non-knowledge, but then not doing anything consistently to remedy the fact.
I can totally see how all this could come about. Let's take fractions, for example, but you could replace "fractions" with any of the other basic skills. These are taught in middle school (elementary?). It is very believable, from a teacher's perspective of knowing how things go, that, OH! It's time for the fractions unit. Let's spend our designated amount of time on fractions. Some students get it, and some don't. Oh no, we have to move on to our next topic for a variety of reasons. Too bad so sad that some students never mastered the fractions. Maybe we can practice them piecemeal within the next concepts. May or may not be enough. Flash forward all the remaining years of schooling. Fractions are either assumed to be mastered, or slightly reviewed, and maybe or maybe not mastered by the unknowing. Graduation day. There are students that don't know their fractions.
Then there are people that think, "oh, just use your calculator", or "no one ever REALLY needs to know that", or "I don't get it either! High five!". Or, people don't say anything, but think less of them. But that just adds to the problem.
I don't know a fix. I guess if it was easy, it would be solved by now. I know I try to address fractions in ALL my classes, but I don't know if I give it enough justice to get EVERYONE 100% proficient. There always seems to be a laundry list of other things to teach.
It would be nice if there were passive ways of fixing this problem once it comes down the pipeline. For example, posters on the wall that you really don't refer to, but they're there for their perusal (see what I did there :) ). Maybe, just maybe the posters are engaging enough, like eye candy, that the students look at them periodically, and then absorb the knowledge eventually. I know you can't do this for everything, but maybe there are other such things to help.