For reasons unknown, a student’s “I don’t understand. Could you help me?” seems to always come out as, “This is stupid. Why am I even learning this? I’ll never use it again.” I can sympathize with that. It’s hard, especially in this day and age, to push yourself through something challenging. It’s even harder when you can’t see what’s on the other side.
The problem is, studying the core subjects at school isn’t just about learning the facts and processes. It isn’t just about learning how to analyze. It isn’t even just about torturing students (although that part can be fun sometimes).
The real point of expecting everyone to have the same basic education, in my own opinion, is firstly giving everyone a base set of knowledge to work from. It’s arming young people with the background knowledge necessary to understand and recognize patterns and references as they get older. We’re all quite familiar with this because we grew up with Bugs Bunny as entertainment, and then took another look at it after a year of American History and found a whole new appreciation for those cartoons.
When done correctly, it’s also about arming young people with the ability to think critically, to reason logically. Education is just as much about the transference of knowledge as it is about developing the higher-level skills that will guide and benefit these students as adults.
Why are you learning this? When are you ever going to use this again? Every day. In your media. In your conversations. In your work. You will rely on your background knowledge to help shape and inform your work. You will rely on your reasoning skills to help shape and inform your work.
And you hopefully won’t ever have to ask a colleague the question, “Didn’t you learn that in school?”, disgust rife in your voice.