If a teacher or parent had a loonie every time s/he heard this age-old complaint there would be a lot of Rockefellers in the world.
This blog is an argument against this old saw, borne of personal experience. I graduated from high school when the years still started with 19! In fact, I even finished my post-secondary education before the Y2K disaster didn’t happen. I took high school chemistry, biology, and physics, as well as more chemistry and biology in university. After that, I used chemistry only insofar as it applied to my work in Nuclear Medicine. That is to say, not much more than a thorough knowledge of the metric system and its prefixes, and the Periodic Table of Elements abbreviations for the few elements that we used to make radiopharmaceuticals for the tests we performed. However, this past summer, I found myself tutoring high school chemistry. Talk about a flash from the past. The very distant past! A quick crash-course review in chemistry was in order.
Then, the other day, as I was puttering in my shop, building a stand for a new fish tank, I was temporarily stymied trying to figure out how to calculate the correct angle to set my mitre saw to, to cut something on the diagonal. Everybody knows a2 + b2 = c2 but that doesn’t address the angles. A quick search on the net reminded me of SIN, COS, TAN, and just like that, I knew how to calculate the angle. On another occasion, I was trying to calculate a safe dose of medication for the fish tank. It was the right medication but in a format made for cattle, and therefore, way too concentrated. I not only had to dilute the medication but then calculate the new dose, as the dosage for cattle is less (believe it or not) per kilogram than the concentration required in water for tropical fish. How do I do that? Well, algebra sure came in handy. (And might I add that saved me a lot of money as ‘farm’ medications are much cheaper than ‘pet’ medications!)
So, while I had to review the Universal Gas Law, and refresh myself on what Avogadro had to say about moles (not the pests in your lawn); and while I had to do a quick search online for SOH CAH TOA, the fact is, because I had learned these things, all those many years ago, it came back in a flash. The psychologists at Brunswick Creek tell me my brain wasn’t re-learning these things. Once they’re in there, they’re in there! All my brain had to do was lay down some new pathways to the location where it had stored these facts. And this is a much easier, and much faster process.
Let me circle back to my opening. It had been well over two decades since I studied Avogadro’s Number, and longer still since I used SOH CAH TOA in physics or elsewhere. And even if you asked me five years ago, I likely would have told you I didn’t have a use for them. However, one never knows where life will lead him/her, and what tools s/he will need once there. One thing I do know, however, is that I can’t use those tools if I don’t have them to use.
There is a high school student out there, I am sure, who wants to be a carpenter and thinks you’ll never have use of a cosine or tangent function. In your second, as-of-yet-unimagined career of surveying, however, you might very well be using it. And there is an aspiring actor who is certain you’ll never use biology. It might come in very handy when your beloved pregnant dog is having a difficult delivery in the middle of the night. (Animals only get sick in the middle of the night or on holidays, but that’s a topic for another post.). And finally, to the student who is certain this quadratic equation is a waste of time, take it from someone who has a gray hair or two, even in the most mundane of circumstances, 10, 20, or 50 years down the road, you just might find it useful after all.
No knowledge is ever a waste.
Mark Brooks, Academic Strategist
Except any question that starts out: One train leaves Calgary travelling at 60 km/h and another one leaves Montreal travelling 58 km/hour …. This question is completely useless, you’ll never use this in real life and I’ll support your claim to that effect.
Brunswick Creek CReeKside Corner
This is a blog authored by the clinicians working at Brunswick Creek Psychology Services.This blog serves to share with our community who we are, what we do, and why we are passionate about human potential and wellness.
306 700 3141 (call or text)
306 700 3142
118 - 12 Cheadle St. W.
Swift Current SK
Brunswick Creek Psychology Services
Swift Current, SK