The Inevitable Question: “When Am I Going To Use This?”

I’m sure that most–if not all–educators have been asked at least once in their teaching career “When am I going to use this?” “This” could refer to a detailed description of the migratory patterns of black-footed ferrets, a complicated algebraic equation including radians, a handwritten synopsis of Color of Water or an explanation on what a mole is and why one mole is equal to 6.02 X 10^23. If you were wondering, no, I did not make these topics up. I have had assignments on all of these topics and have probably wondered why this is important to gaining an education at the collegiate level and successful career.

And while in math class, I have had this recurring conversation with my teacher (in my head of course):



When I graduate high school in seven weeks, I won’t know the process of applying for a loan or what words are best to avoid when describing yourself in a job interview, but by golly I know that apparently the letter “i” does not always have to be capitalized, even if it is standing alone.

But wait… Is that fair of me to say? Yes, it is, though I do believe my frustration is aimed at the wrong people at times. What many students forget (myself included) is that teachers are not the ones who create the long list of standards that we must fulfill by the end of each school year. Teachers too are plagued with overhanging requirements that, should students fail to obtain the information, can cost them their job. I’m sure some teachers look at their material and feel the same way the students do, questioning themselves, “When have I ever used this?”

So… What are our options as students and educators? We do not have the power to create our own standards, but we do have the power to speak out about it. Most of the authorities in charge of the education system have long graduated from the school system (I’m talking decades) and are oblivious to how the evolving world does not match up to our concrete and sometimes irrelevant standards.

Just as I want to integrate social media into the education system because it is the most prominent form of worldwide communication in the professional world and students need to learn how to maneuver it, I hope the education system itself will be improved to incorporate values and standards that are relevant to the 21st century workforce and what students will benefit from most when cultivating successful careers.

Though I will not be able to reap the benefits from this much needed update–or in some cases, overhaul–in the system, I would be conflicted when sending my children to a school that still does not foster creativity, individual thinking, or the education of skills and information that can translate to every single job in the professional world. These skills would include what key words/questions to avoid during a job interview, how to approach applying for a loan, and, as the picture states above, how to balance a checkbook. Of course I will teach my children just as my parents have taught me. But many students are released into the world without any of this knowledge because their parents were never formally taught or simply do not take the time to.

I understand the education system cannot prepare students 100% for the professional world, as I do believe parents must take a majority of the responsibility; however, the skills and tools needed to succeed in the professional world are necessary, rather than wasting time on what a radian is and its relationship to the unit circle.

As a student myself, I have questioned the material I am taught countless times. And though I do want to blame the teachers for “wasting my time” and “teaching me things I will not use in the ‘real world,'” it isn’t their fault and I am unfairly questioning the wrong people. Instead of leaning back in my chair and gazing out into space when I do not understand the relevance of the information, I should–we all should–address the real issue and speak to the authorities who do have the power to change what we are learning. Such as Arne Duncan, who has already been mentioned on my blog in “American Schools And Their Rigor: Should That Be Our Focus For Aiming Towards Success?

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