“Why do I have to learn this?” (Synopsis)

“The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful.” -Henri Poincare

It's the start of another school year, and that means literally tens of millions of students returning to school. While there are a few of them genuinely looking forward to each and every one of the challenges that the upcoming year has to offer, the vast majority are excited about a handful of subjects at most, with a great many actually dreading the upcoming year.

Image credit: jamtoons, via iStockPhoto and Getty Images, at http://www.istockphoto.com/vector/school-subjects-doodles-25933291. Image credit: jamtoons, via iStockPhoto and Getty Images, at http://www.istockphoto.com/vector/school-subjects-doodles-25933291.

Math often gets the most grief as a subject, with students asking questions like, "when will I ever need to know this," "why can't I just use a calculator," or "I'm not going to be a mathematician, so why should I even care?"

While there are many good arguments out there, there's one that really takes the cake above and beyond all others.

Image credit: © 2015 The Sherkow Center for Child Development and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Image credit: © 2015 The Sherkow Center for Child Development and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

You need to wind up with the mind you want. Go read the whole thing, and see if you agree!

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When I was on the Speaker's Bureau at work, I loved career days. One thing I would tell the kids, who were usually just getting their first introduction to algebra, was:
It's true, most of you will never use algebra again in life.
But, those of you on a sports team probably do a whole bunch of exercise, including sit-ups. No football game ever features the teams competing to see who can do the most sit-ups, but the exercise prepares your body to play the game better.
Algebra is exercise for your brain.

No idea what the long-term effect of this was, but I offered it anyway.

By Karl Lembke (not verified) on 09 Sep 2015 #permalink

Hell, my approach is:

School is not to do anything about getting you something you will use in your working life, it's to give you everything you need to be able to decide for yourself what you want to do.

Don't want to do maths? There's a hell of a lot of jobs that won't be open to you, then. Including owning and/or running your own business.

And it's not really until the last year or two that you learn anything about the actual *subject* rather than just being told what the basic groundwork is.

Think of this: geography is mostly hearing about the GDP of some unknown country and the capital city of somewhere you'll never go.

ACTUAL geography is going to places and looking at the landscape with an eye that isn't seeing what everyone else sees, but seeing "Ancient land tilted by continental drift and weathered along one side to create what others see as a small ridge. That will contain fossils on the rugged side".

Being able to learn how to see the world that way isn't available in even the slightest way until they've told you the names of the ancient eras that laid down various rocks. Until you learn them, they can't explain what to look for, you lack the words.

It's no different for physics or history (or music or art, this isn't all the "hard" objective stuff, subjective learning too is very different at the end of schooling).

A good schooling should NOT GIVE A RATS ASS whether you'll use what you're taught in work. Employers are supposed to pay to get you TRAINED for a job. Not mooch off taxpayer funded education systems whilst the big names offshore their profits to avoid paying for the teaching.

A good schooling should give you as much stuff to learn so you aren't pre-selected for a type of job.

You won't have time to learn for the hell of it when you start work. And university is too late to try something different and expect to finish with a degree.

If school is wasting your time teaching you "vocational" education, they're telling you what job you're supposed to be doing.

I disagree. When we teach students material that they won't have any use for in the future, it's not their fault that they're :...unmotivated, uninterested, or simply trying to avoid doing the work that they don’t want to do...".

Why can't we have our students exercise their brains and build their skills by learning material that they will actually use? If we can't come up with real-life uses for what we're teaching, we should back off and reconsider whether we might be teaching the wrong stuff.

For examples from genetics, see my "Why do we have to learn this stuff?" paper: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.10…

By Rosie Redfield (not verified) on 09 Sep 2015 #permalink

"A good schooling should NOT GIVE A RATS ASS whether you’ll use what you’re taught in work. Employers are supposed to pay to get you TRAINED for a job."

True enough. Sadly, the tea baggers have essentially destroyed that philosophy, and some are quite blatant about it: we have people in our statement government who say "We've tried to teach students to THINK long enough. We need to teach them what to do so they can get jobs."

When we teach students material that they won’t have any use for in the future...

Sorry, but I think this is absurd. How the crap can you ever know what at 17-year-old will have use for or not have use for in the future? Okay, sure, by 17 you can rule out Tennis Champion if the kid has never played tennis. But for basic subjects such as history, science, math, literature, the end of High School is not the time to be ruling out career choices or deciding what is useless.

Personally, I think statistics is drastically underrated and a class practically everyone should take. For run-of-the-mill citizens, its probably more important than calculus, because it gives you a better ability to assess surveys, news articles, etc. i.e. information sources. But rather than say everyone should take it, I think my bigger point here is that I think its important to give every citizen a solid grounding in all the core subjects as best as we can, and not worry about the utility subject X gives to student Y. You have no real idea what Y is gonig to do in the future, so give them the tools to succeed at a wide variety of endeavors and don't worry about 'wasted' over education. An old comic stated "what would happen if we cleaned up the air, reduced waste, and made the rivers cleaner and then it turned out that climate change wasn't real?" In a similar vein, what would happen if every citizen learned math and art and literature and then it turned out most of them didn't need most of it?

Still a great outcome, right?

Eric, I completely agree about the relative values of statistics and calculus. Usually we don't have the luxury of teaching everything, and when we have to choose I think practical relevance should be a major factor.

By Rosie Redfield (not verified) on 09 Sep 2015 #permalink

Everything about importance of education comes down to this:
Education makes you smarter (especially learning math and science).
Intelligence is nature times nurture.
Everything in life is better and easier for smarter people.
If you want to see importance of education just compare countries like US and India. World is full of poor countries where always you would find most of the population have little or no education.

Start with the basics of teaching children (and some adults).
There are two types of humans on the planet.
The decent and indecent. And then you work from there.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 09 Sep 2015 #permalink

The current system makes no sense. This single man found cooking & typing (self-taught) much more useful than physics, in which I excelled. Physicists are currently a glut on the market. PhysEd was torture for me and others, now I'm athletic. People differ, they should be allowed to play to their strengths (and some not-so-strong areas), and allowed to drop maybe 5% of "required" courses. Drafting & WoodShop were a complete waste of time.

"I disagree. When we teach students material that they won’t have any use for in the future, it’s not their fault that they’re..."

It's not the fault of the curriculum. How motivated would they be if they were taught to use Microsoft Office 97?

Hell, they're motivated as much about working at school as adults are working at work. We don't go blame the employers for not teaching them things they'd like to do.

But who is blaming the students? Like employers, school shouldn't give a monkeys if their students are unmotivated because they're not doing something else. Just like employers, schools should attempt to make it enjoyable to do, but neither should change the job to be done just to make them feel better.

"People differ, they should be allowed to play to their strengths (and some not-so-strong areas), and allowed to drop maybe 5% of “required” courses. Drafting & WoodShop were a complete waste of time."

So was PhysEd for you.

Yet NOW you're claiming you're fit. So it WAS useful for you.

Remember, at 11 you're going to change MASSIVELY by the time you're 17. If you weren't, then there'd be no damn point in describing minors and giving them more protection and fewer rights under the law (e.g. underage sex. Tell me there's no difference from a just-pubescent kid and a late teen. Dare you). And you'll change AGAIN by the time you're 21 (otherwise no legal difference should be there, but there is). And AGAIN all through your life.

So how the hell do you know when you're 11 that you're never going to like Design and Crafts, or never need or like History?

DOUBLY so because not only do the kids change as they age, the class they take changes too.

If you predestine kids to a job, you can tech them everything they need in 2 years from the age of 6.

Of course, in 10+ years time when they are able to get a job, what they learned will be likely worthless, since businesses don't keep the same software 10 years. And if you;re going to say "Taking shop, huh, what about that?", are you going to teach them how to use the machine used in the specific workplace they'll be working in? Different companies making the same thing can use different machines.

Teach kids everything you can. Whether "worthless" or not. They won't have time when they're working, and they may never find out they're BRILLIANT at the flute or discus. Or a prodigy at set theory. Or just enjoy classical mechanics for mental exercise.

Home schooling has been a positive.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 09 Sep 2015 #permalink

No, it hasn't.

It's only been a positive hindrance to free thinking.

Home schooling is a positive in rare circumstances - mostly it is a haven for people to avoid
- having their children be around "others" while being taught that people who aren't just like them are evil
- having their children learn things deemed to be inconvenient (science, history, facts)
- having to be vaccinated
- the intersection of all of the above

"There are two types of humans on the planet.
The decent and indecent."

It's possible you were once thought to be in the first of those groups - now we know better.

Once again, you're gullible.

unless your parent that is staying home knows what an entire school full of teachers know, they'll be unable to teach you what the teachers know.

And lets face it, 90% or more of homeschooling parents haven't a fucking clue.

Didn't you say you went to school yourself, teabaggie?

Maybe you need to hear from the children affected by it:

http://www.alternet.org/story/154541/barely_literate_how_christian_fund…

Also, how ironic that someone who tells us climate scientists are telling porkies because their job is in climate science wants to point us to a site run by people who are paid to help homeschooling.

"Once again you are behind the curve:"

No, not at all. You'd have to be quite gullible to take the word of research done about home schooling by the home schooling institute as reliable (just as research on hazards of smoking by tobacco companies should be viewed with great cynicism).

"unless your parent that is staying home knows what an entire school full of teachers know, they’ll be unable to teach you what the teachers know.."
WRONGO RHONDA:

"(1) One of the most significant studies was performed by Dr. Eric Hanushek of the University of Rochester, who surveyed the results of 113 studies on teacher education and qualifications. Eighty-five percent of the studies found no positive correlation between the educational performance of the students and the teacher’s educational background. Although 7% of the studies did find a positive correlation, 5% found a negative impact."
Dr. Eric Hanushek STANFORD University:
http://hanushek.stanford.edu/opinions

"No, not at all. "
Yes Totally.
Google the names and read their own published work.
Above is the link to Dr. Eric Hanushek , Dr. Sam Peavey, Dr. Donald Ericksen, etc..

Dr. Donald Ericksen, professor of education for the University of California at Los Angeles, stated in a recent interview:
"Some of the worst teachers I’ve ever seen are highly certified. Look at our public schools. They’re full of certified teachers. What kind of magic is that accomplishing? But I can take you to the best teachers I’ve ever seen, and most of them are uncertified . . . . We don’t have evidence at all that what we do in schools of education makes much difference in teacher competence."

Dr. Sam Peavey, who is in charge of numerous accreditation and teacher certification programs stated, “May I say that I have spent a long career in developing and administering programs for teacher certification. I wish I could tell you that those thousands of certificates contributed significantly to the quality of children’s learning, but I cannot. After fifty years of research, we have found no significant correlation between the requirements for teacher certification and the quality of student achievement.”

Home schooled kids don't have to deal with all the "social noises".
I went to public schools, private schools, and home schooled by an aunt via a correspondence course for over a year as we traveled.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 10 Sep 2015 #permalink

"“No, not at all. ”
Yes Totally."

And you were "like, yeah, totally" and reality was all like "Nah, nevah", right.

Utterly incompetent, Teabaggie. Try looking at something that ISN'T woomancer drivel.

You want it to be true because you know jack and shit, but want to feel you're right and when even KIDS could tell you were talking BS, you knew that it had to be stopped at all costs.

You can't stand to have a multiplicity of thoughts, you HAVE TO indoctrinate. Otherwise the stupidity of your mythology-driven worldview doesn't last.

Maybe you need to hear from the children affected by it:

"Just how common are stories like Vyckie Garrison’s? Unfortunately, it’s hard to know. "
Melinda Palmer
"She is still a Christian, but says her family believed in a “warped understand of God.”

These folks were caught up in a movement that some of their family members were either incapable or as stated overwhelmed with the home schooling aspects.
Your going to have extremes on both ends.
The homeschooling in my town have to follow the same standards and lessons as their school piers, they can participate in sports or get extra help on work as needed.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 10 Sep 2015 #permalink

"Utterly incompetent, Teabaggie"
Your on a real teabag tear lately, still a wee bit sore about that Boston tea party and that your ancestors were not Sons of liberty so you end up stuck over there and missed the boat on being born in greatest country on God's green earth i guess.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 10 Sep 2015 #permalink

I already gave you one link to people who had suffered under it.

You didn't think that disproved your asinine claim that it was a positive thing.

YOU are one damn good proof of why homeschooling is a completely broken idea.

But it's the only way to can get kids to believe your BS god, so you have to believe in it too. Sure as shit reality, which is what the kids will get taught in school, won't make them believe in it.

Homeschooling doesn't work unless you're prepared to put in five times the work a teacher would. AND BELIEVE THE CHILD HAS RIGHTS EQUAL TO YOUR OWN.

"Your on a real teabag tear lately, still a wee bit sore about that Boston tea party"

Nope. Nobody alive was there then. Are you sore about the UK providing you with a legal title to the USA over the indiginous people?

Talk about ungrateful brats!

"But it’s the only way to can get kids to believe your BS god, so you have to believe in it too. Sure as shit reality, which is what the kids will get taught in school"

You do realize the Bible is responsible for more people learning to read than any other book don't you?

Harvard College was founded by John Harvard a Presbyterian minister

Yale's beginning was an institution to train ministers and lay leadership for Connecticut.
Princeton, Dartmouth, Columbia, William and Mary, Rutgers, Brown & UPenn...etct...

You may hate Christian religion but you can not deny the fact that many institutions of higher learning were founded because of it.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 10 Sep 2015 #permalink

"You do realize the Bible is responsible for more people learning to read than any other book don’t you?"

You do realise that is a load of old bollocks, don't you?

Tell me, did the bible talk to them and kick them out of bed and tell them "Hey, get to school and learn something!"? No.

So how did it make them learn? By insisting that learning will lead to not believing in god and that you should tear out your eyes rather than see something that makes you doubt the faith of your mythology.

Way to make people want to learn, dude!

Look at all the TV shysters preaching how only the "revealed truth" is true.

How the hell are you supposed to learn if all you're meant to learn is the bloody stupid book of myths?

Many places were built by people who were religious, because you were able to scam people out of their money by pretending that you talked to god.

With money you can buy things.

A lot of universities were funded by rich people who stipulated that this would be paid for by prayers for their soul.

These have lapsed over the centuries and almost no university still retains the prayer bit, though they may still keep a chaplain in the vestry.

Did you know that Bill Gates is an atheist, and he's spent a shitload more than John Harvard did. I bet that proves atheists are better people, right, it's "proof end evidence" that atheism is correct, right?

You do realize the Bible is responsible for more people learning to read than any other book don’t you?

Literacy only took off in Europe in the 1700s. So, about 700 years after Christians had essentially complete dominance of the continent but right on the heels of/in the middle of the enlightenment. If Christianity had been responsible for literacy, it should've happened in AD 1100. But it happened in the 1700s, in what my public education tells me is called the Age of Reason.

Tell me, does your homeschooling efforts including implying to kids that a 700-year gap between Christian dominance and literacy is more indicative of cause than simultaneous increase in literacy with interest in secular philosophy, humanism, and political theory that opposed concepts such as the divine right of kings?

"Look at all the TV shysters preaching how only the “revealed truth” is true.

How the hell are you supposed to learn if all you’re meant to learn is the bloody stupid book of myths?"

You can't deny the fact that regardless the content, the outcome was beneficial to society.

Example, RENAISSANCE ART. When humans are called to a higher calling of something greater than themselves (as humanity) they can produce great things.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistine_Chapel#/media/File:Sistina-intern…

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 10 Sep 2015 #permalink

For quoting purposes, is this phrasing yours?

there’s a secret ingredient to having the life you want: making yourself into the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.

@Wow #24

@Wow wrote:

Are you sore about the UK providing you with a legal title to the USA

If by 'providing us with legal title' is your way of phrasing our crushing the Limey troops and their allies in our war for independence back in the 1700's, then I'm good with it. Not sore.

No, Denier, it's my way of saying giving you the guns and support to crush the natives and steal their land and pretend it wasn't a holocaust bigger than the Nazi one, Denier.

As for killing those limey troops, you were losing BADLY to trained troops because you were, frankly, untrained hicks. It was only when the FRENCH gave you troops, training (very little, you were not really open to learning anything even then) and blockaded the Brithish resupply to their troops that you started winning.

Ever wonder why you got the Statue of Liberty? The French won the war for you.

For which help, when France didn't follow your moron leader in a stupid war for a reason the retard KNEW was fake, you collectively hated them, and still do, with epithets like "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys".

Not so "We saved your ass in the War of Independence, you OWE us" for the French.

Why?

Because they're not over-opinionated arrogant assholes who think that just because they helped you once, you must remain in debt to them for the rest of eternity.

Oh, and they say "You're welcome" for the entire political system you have.

Not that you ever thanked anyone for it.

@Wow wrote:

Because they’re not over-opinionated arrogant assholes who think that just because they helped you once, you must remain in debt to them for the rest of eternity.

Actually, that is exactly what the French did and it led to the XYZ Affair. We rekindled the relationship after Napoleon came to power and even purchased the whole middle part of our country from the guy so he could finance his escapades in Europe.

Actually, that's a load of bollocks, denier.

well a day... talk about "thread hijacking" !

By Candice H. Bro… (not verified) on 11 Sep 2015 #permalink