Are the school subjects useless?

Yesterday I met one of my student. While we were talking he asked me a question.

“Do you think if History is useless?”

“No.” – I answered shortly and he was surprised by it.

“Why?” – he asked me again.

“Because if you don’t know a history of a country, you can’t understand its people.” – I saw the acknowledgment in his eyes, that he found sense in the answer.

He reminded me about my past when as a young school girl I asked myself the same thing. “Why do I need to go to school? Why do I need to study this?”

I even told myself I would never become a teacher, because I don’t want to deal with the kids and teach things they would never use in life. However, in the end I become a tutor. When I started to tutor kids and had to revise the school’s lesson with them, my opinion started to change. But the breakthrough was when I went to British Museum in London and saw all the antique objects of ancient China that I learned at university. I felt so good that I knew what the object was, how it was made and the meaning of it. It was different to look at those antiques with knowledge.

That was the moment I realized what we learn at school is not useless. More exactly we should figure out a way to make it more practical than theoretical.

Since then I told my student that whatever they study at school, study it well, since they relate to our everyday life. I showed them how to look at them differently. For example:

History. We learn the prehistory, ancient time, medieval and modern age. They are all explained with the fact of what happened in what year. The test are all based on dates and event. And the students can’t understand why they need to study it, because there is no relation to the present. But if we teach in a way like “This happened and today that war place became this tourist attraction. And because of this event, this country has this and people behave like this.” Long words short, we should show the students why it is useful to know those facts in a way it relates to present and our world situation.

The power of “why”

Many children say that school is useless and they hate going to school. Because they don’t know the “why”. They only know they have to go to school, because parents say so. They have to sit there for 6 hours, because the teacher says so. But they themselves don’t know why they do what they are doing.

Once I asked my student: “Why do you go to school?”

He was surprised and looked at me astonished. His first automatic answer was: “Because my parents say so.” The second was “I don’t know.”

And when I encourage him to think more, he said:

“Because I want to have knowledge, so other people can’t look down on me.”

And after he said this out I could see the change in his eyes. I felt as if he didn’t feel revulsion towards school. Turning back to History when I told him why it was useful, he started to be more curious and wanted to find out why other subjects, like Music was useful as well.

I believe every child is clever. And every child is curious for the “Why” and they want to know as much as they can. But when we force them to do it, it will have countereffect. They will start to hate it. As an adult, teacher or parents we should make them understand why they have to do what they are doing. What is the sense of it. That’s the way we don’t put pressure on them and don’t make them hate things that is critically important to us such as school and education.

What I do is after answering so many question I ask them back why that subject is important. That way they can think and figure it out by themselves. The effect is amazing. I can feel their view towards things they don’t like change as they found a meaning to it. And they become more curious about it.

To answer the question in title is a big NO. The main thing is we need to know how to teach it to make it useful and practical to our kids.

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