Practicality is not the only goal

By Anabel Pasarow

Once every few weeks some bold kid in one of my classes begrudgingly mumbles (at a volume loud enough for us to hear though, in the hope that we will all agree and stage a rebellion against the teacher) something to the effect of, “when will we ever use this [expletive] in the real world?”

And to this kid I have to say: though it is true that many of us will never again exercise our ability to recite from memory the inverse trig functions, since when is learning for the sake of learning a bad thing?

Efficiency is critical, but it is equally important that we learn more than just what has direct utility in the real world.

Lack of a future practical application doesn’t make knowledge useless. It is okay that I will not put

everything I learn in high school to

productive use. But this shouldn’t have any impact on the level of seriousness with which I study for different classes.

Isn’t there power in knowledge, regardless of whether or not said knowledge can further me in my career?

It’s selfish to treat knowledge as something only in existence for the purpose of benefitting me. Knowledge exists independent of me, and I exist because of it, so I am lucky to take with me whatever it will spare. That which will not help me in my life is at least interesting to learn.

Sometimes I wonder if the fantastical ideas we discuss in English class can stand alone, independent of the confines of my scribbled-in book. Without being grounded in the syllabus, can they serve a more divine purpose?

If not, why should I take the time to read about Jay Gatsby’s perils, since he surely can’t help me in the future to establish myself in the professional world?

But while this may literally be true, Jay Gatsby’s failure has taught me to secure my aspirations in reality, without delusion or naiveté. The countless, seemingly unapplicable integrals we solve in math may not lead to the fruition of my future goals, but they do teach me to think differently. They challenge my brain and push me to grasp concepts too difficult to understand upon initial inspection.

High school provides us with a rare time where we are allowed, encouraged even, to explore things that have no apparent bearing on the future.

They are there to satisfy our intellectual appetite, but not necessarily to function as anything we can use in 30 years.

Our society fosters a race to be productive and to be the best and to not waste any time. We shouldn’t just learn to get further in the race.

Learn to learn and learn for yourself.