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WHY do I have to take this class?

 

I've heard the following questions SO many times! 

Do I really need to take algebra?

Why do I need to read that book?

Why am I required to study history? 

When am I ever going to use proofs?

Am I actually going to use chemistry?

This is a waste of time!

I get it. There are a bunch of subjects that are required for high school that, if you look from the outside, seem like they are completely unrelated to the direction we are headed. So why are they required? How can we motivate our teens to do their best in a subject when we can't name the last time we had to diagram a sentence or complete an algebraic equation?

 

You Don't Know Where You're Headed

I'm not doing what I thought I would be career-wise in high school. Statistically, neither will your teens. Right now the average person is holding 12+ jobs over the course of their life according to Zippia! The days of preparing for and staying in one career field for life have been replaced with a progression of different jobs and various skill developments.

So you don't know which particular skills from high school will be utilized!

I interviewed recently Wade Parmer for UniversityReady, who is currently working with Amazon Web Services, and he said that in order to get hired for upper-level Amazon positions (most of which are very tech-related jobs) part of the job interview process is to submit a 5 page paper like one you would write in high-school!

I also talked recently with Rex Clement who works in the trades as a home inspector, and to pass the state requirements he has to take a series of exams (test prep) that include studying chemistry topics. 

So the reality is, your teen just doesn't know what skills will come in handy later on in life!

 

An Interdisciplinary Perspective

I talk with a lot of different career professionals with my work as a college prep consultant and for the career prep challenge that I run, and there is a growing theme of interdisciplinary work (work that relates to multiple branches of knowledge). Careers are not nearly as siloed as they once were, with different fields bleeding over into other industries. You can see this in colleges, with more and more schools offering programs that cross fields (I attended a graduate program that blended the study of law and economics together). Currently, the largest company in the world by market cap (Apple) arrived at that spot in part by successfully merging marketing, technology, user experience, and art. You might have a very math-inclined student that might wonder why they have to take art classes, or vice-versa, and yet all we have to do is look around at the fastest-growing businesses to see the value of people who at least have some knowledge of very different (sometimes seemingly-unrelated) fields! So studying those courses that might not sound as appealing right now might give you some skillsets that will come in handy down the road!

 

Indirect Skills

I have done a lot of math tutoring over the past decade (from my experience in applied mathematics with my degree in economics), and I frequently hear students ask about why they need to study math, especially if they are going into a field that doesn't require math. Aside from the reasons listed above, I frequently come back to the fact that most of school is about indirect skills. 

So if I'm taking an algebra class, obviously there is a list of direct skills that I'm learning, like how to factor a quadratic equation or how to multiply polynomials. But there are a ton of more hidden skills that I'm developing in the process, like how to do deep work, how to focus, how to problem solve, how to overcome challenges, even how to do things I don't like. Those are what I refer to as indirect skills, and they are helpful for anyone, regardless of what field that you are going into! So if you get to a subject that you think is irrelevant, ask yourself what indirect skills are you learning that will be helpful to you!

 

Doing Hard Things and Neural Development

Along the lines of indirect skills, when we come upon a subject that is challenging there is the opportunity for growth. Regardless of what career path we pursue, there will always be challenges in any job. There will be requirements or tasks we don't like. The idea of having to do subjects/tasks that we feel are irrelevant isn't an experience limited to high school, but rather something that we will have to face off and on our entire lives. The opportunity in school is for us to start developing habits of how we will handle those times when (not if) they come. The decision to press through and still do hard things develops us mentally to be able to take on other challenges more easily down the road (and on the flip side, bowing out when the road gets hard also develops the pattern for us to follow again). Many studies show that even neurologically, our brains develop differently based upon these decisions (see this study about how adolescents' brains change neurologically based on if they decide to pursue higher-level mathematics). 

 

I know that knowing this information won't instantly cause you to enjoy math or love writing, but I hope it can help give you a little more motivation to push through on subjects that might not be your favorite!

Looking for more help with academics and motivation? Check out our Study Skills course here, or schedule a FREE 30-minute college-prep consultation with Matthew to learn about the different resources we have to help your teen succeed!

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