If I had a dollar for every time I have asked myself, my classmates or my teachers the question “When will I ever use this?” I would already be retired in the Hamptons. I vividly remember the first time I began to question the idea of school in fifth grade. I was sitting in Mrs. Greene’s math class learning about integers, and I began to wonder how my new knowledge of positive whole numbers and their opposites would ever apply to my career as a professional athlete of some sort. I was a naïve 11-year-old at the time in more ways than one, but that would not be the last occasion on which I asked a question along the lines of “Why am I learning this?”
Now that I am a mature adult, I have come to the unfortunate realization that despite my water polo skills, I will not be a professional athlete of any sort, so perhaps integers actually will apply to my career on some level. That being said, it is still valid to assert that the majority of the information I learn in high school will be useless to me in six years. If one day I pursue a career in business, my understanding of Life of Pi, The Crucible, “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” Calculus or Physics is unlikely to contribute to my success, so what is the point?
It is important to question why we do things the way we do. Why do we learn things every day that we will only use if we become a high school teacher? What would school be like if we only learned skills and information that apply directly to careers we are interested in? This may initially seem like a brilliant idea, but upon further consideration, some of the downfalls become clear.
I believe school would be boring, impractical and ineffective if it functioned this way. First of all, regardless of what many students may think, the vast majority of high schoolers have no clue what they will be doing in 10 years. Secondly, a curriculum so narrowly focused would quickly become extraordinarily dull. You are probably thinking “school is already boring,” but imagine if you were only in one class all day. Diversifying our studies keeps things interesting, at least to a degree. Finally, lacking education in areas that do not apply to a specific career would for all intents and purposes make us robots who are only capable of operating for one purpose or task.
So perhaps we should broaden our studies in high school and learn a few things that will not necessarily apply directly to the career path we choose, but do I still need to learn about derivatives and Newton’s Laws? Of course. Though it may often feel like a waste of time, there is so much value in learning any new concepts or information. I seriously doubt that a business man would ever need to know the slope of the tangent line of any function at any point, but learning to think critically by way of finding the derivative teaches us to reason and solve problems. High school teaches us so much in so many different ways, and all of it will apply to our future careers even if none of it does.
I pride myself on my ability to solve problems and get things done. I owe so much of that to Mrs. Smith, Dr. G and Jonathan Koch, among others. Though Honors Pre-Calculus, Biology and American Literature might not be at the forefront of my future occupation, the concepts I learned in those classes taught me to think in different ways, and that will help me be successful. Next time you are frustrated because you think you are learning useless information, you might be right, but do not be discouraged. That useless information just might be the key to your future success.