Your Quarters Worth

Will we really use this in life?

Did you ever ask a question like this back when you were in school?

Or maybe you’re currently in school and have caught yourself asking it.

I certainly asked the question. . .

many times. . .

out loud. . .

to my teachers. . .

in front of my other classmates. . .

Countless times, in fact.

In elementary school I got sent into the hallway more than a few times to spend the remainder of the day because of my insistence on asking questions like:

What will we use this for in the real world?

The first time I remember asking the question was when my fourth grade teacher, Miss Heifich, informed our class that she would show the videotape of an episode of Wheel of Fortune she appeared as a contestant on.

I spent the afternoon staring at the bulletin boards in the hallway. By the end of the day I was certain she forgot she sent me out there.

In hindsight, I realize I disrespected what was probably the apex of a lifetime filled with imbuing snots like me with arbitrary miscellany necessary for our own lives of doldrum monotony.

The next year I would ask the question again.

Mrs. Rivera, a beautiful native Venezuelan woman that taught advanced fifth grade math, would become my next victim.

I habitually asked her what she was teaching us would be used for when we got into the real world. I also took to finding errors in her math equations and subsequently correcting her in front of my peers.

I got to know the walls outside of her classroom very intimately as well.

Whether it was pride in being a bright kid good at taking tests or I was just hooked on any negative attention I received from teachers and classmates, the more I learned of Latin, algebra, chemistry, cube roots, or American and World History, the more I found myself asking my educators:

When will we use this in life?

I couldn’t see knowing the quadratic formula or how to do proofs as having true value in life.

My other fifth grade teacher, Mr. K, once busted my classmate, Pasquale, dreamily staring out the window at the school’s groundskeeper mowing the lawn. Mr. K proceeded to tell Pasquale that’s what he had to look forward to becoming if he didn’t start paying attention in school.

Ironically, a school maintenance worker or a landscaper actually uses equations I casted off as useless in their work.

For example, they’ll use the formula for volume of cylinder, Pi times radius squared times height, to determine how many cubic feet of concrete they need to support a fence post.

Metric conversions, algebra, and electron theory show up everyday in my career as an electrician.

I should apologize to all the teachers, from Miss Heifich on up, for asking:

Will we really ever use this?

Maybe not Miss Heifich, but you get the idea.

I don’t regret questioning everything, but in adult life I now understand that some questions like What will we use this for? and more broadly, Why?, have less value than what I was looking for as that smart-aleck rabble-rouser in the 1980s and ’90s American public school system.

Finally, to this day the best answer I’ve received to the question Why? has been Just because.

And the top response to What will we use this for in life? has been Nothing. You’ll never be considered for a job where you’ll use this anyway.

Written by John Andreula.

Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk


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