Every time I walk out of a particularly gruelling or boring class, my classmates ask this question: “Why do we need to know this? It’s so useless.”
The short answer? You don’t need it, and yes, it’s probably useless.
Wait, you argue, what you learn in school does apply. Sure. Engineers use physics. Doctors use biology. Business people use math. Politicians use whatever class is taught in the principal’s office.
But for the rest of us, we won’t use many of the subjects we learnt in school.
So if school doesn’t teach us how to do our jobs, then what’s it for?
That’s the wrong question. School does teach us how to do our jobs, just not during class. Specifically, there are three things school teaches us: social skills, self-starting, and recovering from failure.
Let’s begin with social skills.
Here’s a fact (I think). Everyone can be sociable. Everyone can talk if you just find the right subject. Or person.
Those aren’t social skills. Social skills are the ability to continue being sociable even when you don’t want to.
And as most of you know, school’s where you learn to deal with people you dislike. (And if you don’t, kindly leave the name of your school in the comments below. I’m transferring there.) Some kids will annoy you. And before you know it, you’re doing a group project with them. Unless you plan to fail, you have to learn to work with them.
But eventually, the project ends. You might pass. You might even pass with flying colours. But your grade, no matter how good, might not affect how you see the other person. You might still dislike them.
But hopefully, you’ve learnt to work with them. That’s the true essence of social skills and civility.
And that is an invaluable skill for the real world.
Besides social skills, there are other things you learn in school that teachers don’t teach. One of them is learning to be a self-starter.
Everyone learns differently, but there’s only one teacher, who, no matter how skilled, can only teach one way at a time. Some students are visual learners. Some are oral. Some are tactile. When a teacher teaches a lesson, some students will inadvertently flounder simply because it isn’t taught in the way that they learn best.
This learning challenge can be a blessing in disguise. Either the student will flounder, or they will learn to be a self-starter, because they will figure out the best way to learn the cirriculum for themselves. Again, this skill is invaluable, because unless you plan to drift in life, you will have to learn to take initiative. Knowing how to self-start is important in life, because it means that you have the skill set to overcome challenges in life.
And now we come to the most important thing you can learn in school: how to recover from failure.
You probably know the feeling of getting a mark you weren’t happy with. (And if you don’t know, you need to stop homeschooling.) Depending on the margins between the expected grade and actual grade, it might feel like the end of the world. But don’t worry. Sure, your parents might chain you to your desk for awhile. Or they might kick you out of the house. But you’re still alive.
The good thing about school is that besides promotion exams, most assignments won’t cost you your future hopes and dreams. What I’m saying is that schools are a safe place to fail, because most of its consequences aren’t that severe.
In school, when you fail, you have to get up and move on—unless you plan on failing again. And that’s good. Because it forces kids to learn how to endure failure, which is a vital skill for adult life. In adulthood, there aren’t going to be dour teachers yelling to motivate you to get back up again and start working. In the adult world, you’ll just be given the free opportunity to wallow all you like.
Which is a waste of life, I assure you.
Being a student myself, I get my regular dose of “why do we even have school” from my classmates. And yes, I read the news. Everyone knows there’s a problem with modern education. People are trying to reform it.
But for those of us in the school system right now, it isn’t happening fast enough. And so we continue to learn how to dissect poems and dissect frogs knowing that we won’t become English or Biology majors.
But that doesn’t give us the excuse to wallow in self-pity, unless we want to continue failing school until educational reforms are implemented. For us, there’s but one option.
What is it?
To gain experience in school, and to make it useful. To learn how to work with others, no matter who they are. To learn how to self-start. And to learn how to recover from failure.
I think those three things will do a better job of preparing you for your job, and for life, than actually learning to do your dream job. Because this stuff is applicable everywhere.
That’s why we have school.