Working with students every day, I often hear questions like “what am I actually going to use this for in real life” and “why should I bother”. The worst part is that these are valid questions that can often leave the rest of us stumped.
The curriculum (in Victoria at least) covers certain information that could be considered pointless and unnecessary. Indeed, many of us can surely admit to forgetting a large portion of our education simply because of its irrelevance. This alone makes a student’s statement of “I’m just wasting my time” seem all too true.
While the school curriculum often leaves a lot to be desired, there are certain aspects that cannot be considered pointless; they just aren’t as obvious as we might think! Below are some ideas of what school subjects can ACTUALLY teach us, that will certainly be useful in the real world.
Analytical Thinking, Construction of Ideas, and Communication. English works through quite absurd pathways, but ultimately we learn these skills through the seemingly pointless essays and reading materials. The ability to analyse information, and then construct meaningful responses and ideas is a skill that will be useful in a huge variety of working environments, including consultancy, office workplaces, or any position where you have to work as a team to create something.
Problem-solving. Don’t underestimate this one. The ability to look at a problem and create a solution that uses the knowledge you already have is a skill in virtually any industry. Construction and trades use mathematical reasoning quite often, even if they don’t directly use the numbers themselves. It is the processes of breaking a problem down to components and solving them systematically that makes Maths useful.
Who doesn’t want to travel? The world is becoming smaller and smaller every day. Almost everyone has the dream of one day travelling, and having the ability to choke out a few greeting and ask for directions never goes astray!
Learn! There is a famous quote from George Santayana:
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“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
And truer words were never spoken!
One of my favourite television shows is Falling Skies, which tells the story of an alien invasion. A History professor becomes one of the most valued strategists and coordinators in their rebellion against the aliens by drawing on his knowledge of battles and wars throughout history. Fictional, sure, but nonetheless valuable.
Health, PE, Chemistry & Biology
Understanding systems and processes. While the information actually learned may or may not be useful depending on your chosen profession, learning how processes work can be a very useful ability. Many systems, be they mechanical, organic, or otherwise occurring, will mimic processes found in these subjects. Understanding how one object can influence another can be useful in the workplace, even to see who is friends with whom, or who to avoid, and what makes your boss happy.
A combination of Mathematics and different systems, Physics simply helps you realise how the world works. It’s the ultimate problem-solving class.
The ability to think creatively and then communicate those thoughts is one that is much rarer than it should be, and artistic skills are most certainly useful in this endeavour.
Empathy. Learning how thought processes work can help you to understand how others think, and therefore empathise with them. Just be careful not to analyse them because “I studied psychology, I know what’s going on in your brain” is an attitude that can lose friends fast. The goal is to help someone and be friendly, not “Freud-ly”.
Interpersonal and social skills, communication, making friends, conversation. Having fun with friends!
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