Next month, we’ll be celebrating American Education Week, and, of course, I’ll be all “Rah, Rah!! Hooray for schools! Yeah, teachers! Go, team!!!” like the vast majority of the rest of the public. But first, I have a few things I want to get off my chest.
I distinctly remember questions being raised back during my school days about our curriculum. Specifically, the questions posed, about once a week, were: “Why do we need to know this? What good is this going to do me? How will I use this knowledge in the future?”
While plodding through the poetry of Byron, Shelley, and Keats for instance, we tried to figure out a point to it all. Most of us just couldn’t see these ditties -- classics that they might have been -- factoring into our future earning potential.
How to figure the hypotenuse of a triangle, as another example, seemed like fairly useless information.
And diagramming sentences never made a lick of sense to any of us from day one.
The question of “why do we need to know this?” was generally posed mostly rhetorically, since school-aged kids back then understood very well that they had no say-so in anything. Consequently, the usual answer to these musings – “Because I said so!” – was generally sufficient.
Occasionally, however, some of our more passionate teachers would attempt to explain that, although we couldn’t understand it now, we would, in the future, realize the reason for it and be thankful we had learned these things. (And, once, a teacher told us we need to study all these things in case we were ever selected to appear on a game show like Jeopardy.) But mostly, our mentors just allowed as to how “in our future” we would find this knowledge useful and meaningful.
So, now I’m old -- 55 years old, to be exact -- and I’m still waiting.
I’ve had about a half-dozen different jobs, operated three different businesses, published five newspapers, and done a whole bunch of other things… but I still haven’t figured out when Beowulf is going to come in handy.
Sine and cosine. Tangent and cotangent. Secant and cosecant. Even back then I understood that these things would probably be useful if we were gonna be rocket scientists. But, as it turns out, not a single member of the Lexington High School Class of ’72 actually DID become a rocket scientist.
Not that I’m not thankful for the education I received. I am. And, while the Palmetto State may have ranked near the bottom of the nation all those years ago just as we do now, we all came through it pretty well.
But, as a point of advice to prepare today’s youth for the jobs of tomorrow, I might offer the education professionals a bit of guidance:
Instead of trying to teach all of them the formula for rotating a parabola on its axis, you might want to train some of them to smile when they say, “Would you like fries with that?”
Now, just in case you too spent countless hours studying random topics which you have yet to put to good use, let’s have a little game show of our own: a contest!!!
Read back through this column, and see how many of each of the following you can find:
1. Dangling participles
2. Split infinitives
3. Misplaced modifiers
Send your answers to me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
First response with the most correct answers wins a trip to Rhodesia (a country I studied in the seventh grade which, apparently, doesn’t exist any more!)