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Should we force kids to learn material they don't show interest in?

As a college graduate I was thinking about how much material I have studied in all of my educational career and then promptly forgotten after the test. Is it a waste of time to try and learn something you are not interested in? To what extent should we allow educational autonomy?

There are a lot of different ways to be intelligent. Memorization and regurgitation are just one small facet.


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    Feb 5 2013: This is a good question, even with the loaded word "force." Of all the classes I took in high school, art and yearbook are the only two I chose. I didn't want to take senior English or chemistry or calculus or civics. Now, decades later, I am a high school English teacher, and every day I am glad my parents and advisors made me take those classes, not because derivatives come up in poetry but because I can refer to bits and pieces that I remember of those classes and get my students to think and discuss and write. Not every essay for an English class has to be about a Shakespearean sonnet. Also, if I can get my students used to the idea of thinking about the overlap of their classes, then they will be more insightful and, therefore, better students.

    I don't use information from calculus and statistics every day, but my brothers the engineer and the warehouse manager do. I don't use stuff from econ. every day, but my brother in marketing does. We all had to take those classes with little promise or expectation that we'd ever use that stuff, but we do use it and in unexpected ways.

    Having said all that, though, I must say that education is very complex in terms of curriculum and pedagogy. I love the idea of "educational autonomy" but don't see how it's possible in our current educational environment. I think people (whoever they may be) could come up with an essential and minimal core of courses and then let students go where their talents and interests take them. There are too many noneducational interests invested in education, though, for something like that to happen.

    This is a question all educators should think about. Maybe stick "Why" in front of your question. . .

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