Have you ever read Romeo & Juliet? I haven’t. Granted, I attended and graduated from a French high school and it likely wouldn’t have been part of the curriculum. But what if you have read it? Did you consider it useful? Or was it something you felt was a waste of your time? And most importantly, was it a waste of your time because you simply didn’t enjoy it? Or was it a waste because you felt you should be spending your time learning something more valuable?
Throughout the past decades, there’s been a trend where students (and adults) have a tendency of saying things like, “Why am I learning this? I’ll never use this later on…” Especially when it comes to subjects like algebra, advanced physics and even history, students feel that there is a significant lack in material taught in schools that could be more valuable to them in the future.
In some cases, many of them are right. Let’s say that you HAD read Romeo & Juliet. What value would it serve you, in your adult life? Well, if you chose to study something or venture into a career that involves literature, creative writing, philosophy or even journalism, it may have served an important purpose to your future plans. However, if you go into business, law of public service, the story of two star-crossed lovers bringing their respective families together through their deaths likely taught you nothing (hey, I may not have read the book, but I know the story!)
But many believe that there is an inherent value in ALL learning, regardless of it’s purpose or reasoning (I’m one of them). School is meant to provide a person with the basic skills and knowledge required to move on to their adult lives and pursue whatever careers they choose. In case you missed it, let me highlight the important word, there: basic. BASIC!!! A book such as Romeo & Juliet can teach a variety of important life skills that the reader likely never becomes aware of. Things such as enrichment of language, study of the human condition, and last but not least, time-management since you know damn well that some time-crunching teacher gave you a deadline to finish the book.
These are all valuable skills that you WILL use later on in life, regardless of what vocation you choose. But typically, we fail to realize those “unspoken” lessons and focus solely on our struggles of the moment and struggling to stay awake through class. It’s comparable to the Karate Kid, where Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel by having him wax cars and paint fences. You know, the whole “wax on, wax off” thing? The protagonist totally didn’t understand why he was doing those things until it was shown to him in practical terms.
Don’t get me wrong; The Karate Kid is an excellent movie and reminds me of my childhood in many respects. It’s a feel-god story about the good guy winning, but it’s total bullshit. You can’t learn to block properly by waxing cars. Still a great movie. Jus’ saying… And I only use Romeo & Juliet as an example because it was one of the first that came to mind.
Something that I’ve often heard, from adults especially, is that they would have seen more value in learning things like how to draft a decent resume, write professional letters or how one does one’s taxes. But the problem is that these skills can and usually are, taught in post-secondary environments such as college and university. I remember when I was in college, we had whole classes just on how to properly apply for jobs, how to make our resumes look neat and professional and how to send correspondence. The material and lessons you learn through grade school and high school are meant to lead into that, since typically-speaking the learning is never SUPPOSED to stop.
Unfortunately, when one is competing against the likes of a society where people make a living and occasionally even get rich by being a “social media influencer” or having millions of YouTube or Twitter subscribers, learning proper math can seem a little mundane and may not have you seeing the value of what you’re learning. But the important lesson here is that in everything that is taught, there is something to learn. If you find yourself in the learning environment and wonder why in the hell you need to know this stuff, try and look beyond the immediate lesson into the skills and knowledge that may be hiding underneath. You may be surprised at what you find. ☯