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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Do I Need to Learn This?

"Why do I need to learn this?" Counselors and teachers have heard students express this sentiment at least a few (hundred) times in their careers.  It's actually a worthy question to sometimes ask, and not always an easy one to answer. It seems to be asked around this time of year when students are either struggling with courses they're presently in or choosing courses they'd rather not take (but are required to) during the next school year.

"Why do I need to learn this?"  Often, it makes sense to decode the motivation behind the question.  After all, if we understand why the question is being asked, it may help to provide a satisfying answer.  And sometimes kids ask this question not because they wonder why they need to learn something but because they're frustrated with not being able to learn it.  So, an easy fix for their frustration is to simply blow it off and minimize the importance of what they're so frustrated trying to understand.

"Why do I need to learn this?" Well, you know teachers sometimes ask the question in a different way - "Why do I need to teach this?" - although they may not always express it outwardly.  And students may never know that teachers feel this way.  Of course, the motivation behind this question may  have - just may have - something to do with teaching to a test (or, stated another way, teaching with a test in mind: think CAPT, CMT, etc.).  In any case, it seems like everyone - students and teachers alike - sometimes wonders why they're learning/teaching the material they have in front of them (see "What Does It Mean to Be Educated" at Learning Matters (http://eosguidancematters.blogspot.com/).  It's a worthy question to ask, and not always a simple one to answer.

"Why do I need to learn this?"  Well, here's why.

Although you may not need to know it now, there may come a time when you do.  By then, it may be too late.  For instance, students go to switch majors in college, only to discover they don't have the necessary coursework to continue in it.  Adults go to switch jobs, need to take a math placement test or something similar, and sometimes realize - "This is why I need to know it."

How will you ever know it's useful or not, interesting or not, if you don't ever learn it in the first place?

"Why do I need to learn this?"

Because it may make you a more educated and well-rounded human being.  Really.

Because the struggle involved in learning it is a lesson in itself.

Because it may help prevent you from being taken advantage of by another individual who may otherwise know more than you.

Because colleges want you to know it, and they measure your knowledge by the grades and test scores you earn.  They want well-rounded learners, students who connect seemingly disparate dots among the different disciplines.

Because you may be on a  television game show someday.  You could win lots of money.

Because it may help you to see the world in a different way.

Because it may help you to see yourself in a different way.

Because it may lead to more learning and more discoveries.

Because you  have the chance to learn it - and others in this world may not.

Because it may make you a freer human being.

After all, it's what the liberal arts were meant to do - to liberate one's mind. 

"Why do I need to learn this?"

Because...just because there are some things you need to do in life, like it or not.  It's like eating the vegetable you really don't like, performing exercises that will keep you healthy but you'd rather not do, folding the laundry or putting out the garbage or cleaning your room or emptying the dishwasher.

Do you have any reasons why?

1 comment:

  1. I think we're at a saddening juncture, in which students and youth are asking these questions and not all adults are on the same page with answers. Some adults are saying "I don't care, you can do what you want" while others are making attempts to explain the types of answers you cited in the blog. And yet others are making no attempt to answer the students' questions all together. I feel like it would go a long way in our school's community if all of the parents and faculty were on the page attitude-wise in response to the question "why do I need to learn this." Its just like you alluded to in the blog, because "you'll be a better, smarter, more equipped-to-face-the-world type of person if you challenge your self to learn something new."


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