Why Do I Have to Take this Class Anyway?

I haven’t studied math since high school. I excelled in it. I took all four years of accelerated classes, keeping college majoring options open. Then I tested out of college math and abandoned it forever. I have never again calculated the price of trail mix, the time two trains will meet, or the best price for a movie ticket based on the percentage of people who will buy it at any given price point. I balance my checkbook. I estimate gas mileage to see how my car is running. All I need, I learned by fifth grade.

So was it wasted–seven grueling additional years of math? That’s about an hour of class plus another one to three hours of homework every day for at least 1260 days–something like 2500-5000 hours on something I’ve never used again. Do I regret it?

No way. Even though a calculus problem now brings only vague recognition, I maintain that its intense problem-solving practice helped me build the brain I use today. I loved logic, a field common to math and argumentation. I use that daily. Processing news and advertisements? Making personal decisions? Solving problems? All demand critical thinking. Math is fabulous training for that.

Well, I don’t teach math. I only teach English–you know, that medium of thinking and communicating you are using at this moment–the one you native speakers practice every waking minute and in your dreams as well?

My English language learners might struggle with the work, but I’ve never had one ask, “Why do I have to study writing anyway?” They know what it means and they want it.

All day, every day, others tell you what to think, feel, and do–especially when it benefits them. We are barraged with words and visual persuasion. Can you distinguish the messages and the messengers, and respond consciously?

More of your work is being done online than ever before–that means you get to write–and all those training manuals had to be written by someone. It might be you.

For the most practical of you, you already know that in any statistical survey, those with college degrees usually outearn those without. Having that diploma opens doors, and more importantly, it announces that others can expect you to have a certain level of literacy, research, and reasoning abilities.

We all know brilliant people who haven’t needed degrees. They have worked their way up or dropped out of college to become entrepreneurs. Some of them are among the smartest people I know. It is no small feat to become self-educated. If you think you have that in you–to build your own brain–go ahead. If you could use a little direction and some practice problems, keep coming back. We’re here to help.

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