As students advance through school, they will discover strengths and weaknesses, favorite subjects and those they don’t enjoy. Part of our work as parents and educators is to expose children to a very broad range of content, so that each child can discover interests and passions, along with learning subject material needed for future academic and professional success. As they reach higher grades, nearly all students will find subjects that are challenging. They will also begin to work with parents and teachers to choose classes which reflect their abilities, preferences, and future plans. As that focus narrows and higher-level school work becomes more challenging, the age-old question emerges — when am I ever going to use this?
What’s the Value of Learning?
From our earliest years, we weigh the cost and benefit of innumerable choices we make throughout each day, and the more intangible or distant the benefits may be, the harder it can be to justify the cost to ourselves. For subjects or assignments that are fairly easy for students, the cost usually feels quite reasonable — a little time spent on easy work. That cost can seem quite a bit higher when material is more difficult, time-consuming, or less interesting, making it feel like it’s just not worth learning. It can be hard to see value beyond the potential for earning a good grade.
So When are You Going to Use This?
Answering that question can be difficult for parents and teachers, but in it’s briefest form, it’s important to learn things because you never know what you’ll need to know. At a minimum, studying a traditional range of topics is an important part of being a thoughtful, functioning, effective member of our society. Additional benefits to an education that includes subjects in which you may find little immediate value include:
Because You’ll Have Better Future Opportunities
Perhaps the most compelling answer for many students is that learning specific subjects and topics enables them to meet requirements to reach future goals, such as a certain degree program or career path. A broader range of coursework can also enhance college admissions prospects and open up doors to additional academic and career opportunities.
Because the Future is Uncertain
Since no one can know for sure what the future holds, it’s impossible to know what knowledge we’ll need. Those math classes that seemed pointless in high school may turn out to be extremely useful for a career in medicine or fashion design. Seemingly boring history classes may pay off for a future political candidate or architect. It’s hard to look so far down the road, so building a broad foundation is generally the best preparation for success in college and beyond.
Because You Build Many Related Skills Through Education
What we learn in school isn’t always just about the facts, dates, formulas, and definitions that are often triggers for wondering “why do we need to learn this?” Even when we don’t think we’re learning, classes in school teach vital skills that we all use in our daily lives, including:
- Developing problem-solving skills by working through difficult assignments
- Encouraging perseverance and persistence (aka grit) by working through more challenging or less interesting subjects and topics
- Developing and sharpening critical thinking skills that are important for everything from choosing the best cell phone plan or selecting a college to identifying fake news or evaluating political candidates
- Building a framework into which new information can fit and grow
- Learning how to learn different types of material and with different styles, which prepares you for learning in college, on the job, and beyond
At the Tenney School, our one-on-one educational program enables us to help students advance learning in their stronger areas while providing personalized support to improve any weaker areas, creating well-rounded, self-motivated students. Contact us today to learn more about our unique philosophy and the Power of One.