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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 8 2013: Well, I'll just keep replying since your convo expires soon. It seems to me you are raising two different issues. One is the issue of narrowness of expertise, you're saying that each professor only has a small field he/she is interested in. I could see this as a strength because they'll actually be good at this field. Well, I cannot remember if algebra was required, was it? If it wasn't, and you didn't want to take it, you just didn't take it. If it was required, well, I would suppose someone made a decision that algebra is worth knowing for life. The thing is, though, Brian, algebra is hard. To really get it under your belt, I would think you'd have to spend a school year on it, doing it over and over with different kinds of word problems, really working it until you have it for life. I'm fifty-two and I use it occasionally, and I'm guessing I remember it because we drilled it over and over until we remembered it.

    The other issue you're raising is whether it has practical use. As I say, I use it occasionally, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to gauge whether it should be required. Right now I can't think of a specific example, but I know it has come up where I have three knowns and I want to know what the fourth, x, is. Oh just hypothetically, let's say you had a tire that extended four inches from the rim, and you knew the tire held sixty pounds of air. You're thinking of buying a tire that extends six inches from the rim and you want to know how many pounds of air that will take, who knows why, maybe you have an air cylinder that only has so much air left in it. It's not a very good example, but that would be an algebra problem, it can come in handy. Also it gives me an appreciation, like when I read an article about science or math in a magazine I appreciate it more because I have a knowledge about the basics of math and science.
    • Feb 8 2013: I don't know if your just trying to disagree with everything I have to say or you honestly have a completely different opinion. haha

      Algebra was mandatory yes. I don't want someone to decide what's required for me to learn in life. I want an overview of subjects, I want relevance, I want critical thinking and creativity. Eventually yes a student has to decide what they want to focus on. Once they have is when I see the need for classes like algebra (if it pertains).
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        Feb 9 2013: Well, your comment is really interesting, Brian. I wish I hadmore time to think about it.

        I probably took algebra at age thirteen. I don't know if I could have decided what I wanted to do at age thirteen and picked my classes accordingly. But I was quite happy to take a variety of classes (many were required), because I had the sense that I would be a well-rounded individual, that as I got older and tried to meet the challenges of life it would help to have a variety of skills. And it does, I can say at age 52 that it really helps me to have a varied set of skills and knowledge.

        I honestly use algebra from time to time, and it really comes in handy in a very practical way. Here's another lousy example: if I know I get a certain amount of interest per month on my savings, but the month is cut short, to say 28 days, how much interest should I expect to get. This is a bad example because it's kind of OCD, it's not going to be that much different; but other more relevant examples do arise.

        But you know, maybe you don't have a math mind. But maybe you should change and become more math-oriented, if just for your finances. What about these rock stars who make millions of dollars and don't know where it all goes because they dislike math?
    • Feb 9 2013: yeah it is, came up again and again while i was doing chemistry at university. even integrals were necessary! absolutely tedious and completely uninteresting calculations, but the end point to which we were applying them was exceedingly interesting.
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        Feb 9 2013: Yeah, right, Ben, but what would you say to an artist who wanted nothing to do with math and science (see my answer above).

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