“When Will I Use This in Real Life?”

By  Layton Funk

Published on  November 2, 2020

The Question Heard in Every School

Students all over the world have asked this of their teachers: “when will I use this in real life?” The “this” they are talking about can include any subject from biology to chemistry, history to language arts, and geometry to algebra, among others. This question about “real life” can be very disheartening to teachers. Students ask the question in either ignorance or other times in earnestness. In order to pin down the answer, let’s look at the intent behind the question first.

“Real Life” Asked in Bad Faith

Sometimes, the question is asked in a way to undermine teachers or education in general. Maybe it was done purposefully to get out of doing work (which never happens) or perhaps it was done as a joke. This is not and indictment on students who do ask the question like this, simply an examination. Those who ask, “when will I use this in real life?” to teachers sardonically or confrontationally simply don’t understand the true nature of our education system. I’ll get more into that later. Unfortunately, many educators are caught off guard and simply say that if you have a job pertaining to the subject matter, then there you go!

“Real Life” Asked in Diligence

Many other students might ask, “when will I use this in real life?” seriously. They, like the other students, are usually referring to advanced math or science or history. They are genuinely curious as to why they are learning this material and rightfully so. Once a student is far enough into their academic career, it becomes apparent that there are so many subjects to cover as to be almost ridiculous. Obviously, nobody will use all of these equations, materials, and facts in their daily life. However, it all comes down to HOW one learns the material, not WHY.

Why Am I Learning This?

A doctor will not use history or huge chunks of math in real life and no business person will have need for nearly any science lessons. But, what any profession needs is discipline. The reason why all this different material is learned throughout lower, middle, and upper education is not the material itself (although, it does help to learn depending on one’s choice of career path), but is actually the ways by which students learn the material and prepare for exams, projects, and the like. Any job requires some degree of planning, dedication, foresight, and training. School prepares students for real life in a roundabout and effective way. If students aren’t aware of this, they might dismiss the subjects altogether and not get the most out of school. Our education system is flawed for sure, but we can make it better by becoming more aware and more focused on the future.

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