It was only a B+, but to me, it still represented the pinnacle of academic achievement. That is how I felt after completing Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus. To me, passing AP Calculus, proved that I was light years ahead of most of my peers and destined to succeed in the “real world.” It was the final check mark needed to perfect my transcript, even if it slightly tarnished my GPA. I knew I had arrived, until something terrible happened that changed my life forever…
Having graduated high school and being accepted to Willamette University in the fall, I moved in with a buddy and went looking for a summer job. Feeling overly qualified for ever job, I imagined an application was a mere formality that I must submit to in the spirit of equality.
To my surprise, there was no place on the job application for my transcript or GPA!!! So, I did the best I could. Under experience I listed, yearbook, chess club, wrestling, student council and a host of other highly accomplished activities. Then I wrote a wonderful cover letter and attached my “perfect transcript.” As in school, I knew these extras would give me the edge. But to my horror, I did not get the job! I could not help but wonder if those HR numbskulls hadn’t gotten my application mixed up with someone else’s.
This trend continued. On one occasion a manager actually tore my transcripts off, and told me he didn’t need them. Slowly but surely, I became disillusioned. It appeared no one cared about my grades or the advanced classes that I had taken. Describing my dilemma to a friend, he laughed, “Welcome to the REAL WORLD!” That stuck with me for a long time. What was he saying – that AP Calculus didn’t matter!?
A Different Perspective
On my next job application I eliminated all references to school and school clubs. For work experience I listed a paper route I had as a young kid and that I had worked on a farm (which was for one month for my grandfather). To my surprise, I got an interview. In the interview, I described how much I loved their company, how hard I would work and how good I was at helping customers. Wow, I got the job! It was that easy! And no one asked me about Calculus!
That experience and others, have led me to wonder about school. What is the purpose? At the very least, shouldn’t it prepare us for the “REAL WORLD?” To this day, I have never once used Calculus, Chemistry, Chinese and many other subjects that I just knew were so important back in my school days. But, some will protest, what if you become an Engineer? Yes, if you want to become an engineer, take calculus, but for the 99.99% of us who don’t become engineers, we should at very least be warned that our study time might be better spend! As far as I am concerned, my B+ in AP Calculus now represents the Pinnacle of Wasted Time! So, parents teaching at home should be careful not to require their children to learn subjects that will not have a practical application for their kids.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I would love to hear yours. If you have some insights, please leave a comment. And if you found this post thought-provoking, please share it with others.
Interesting perspective! I think you are very right that education should be tied to real life. The benefit of homeschooling is that we can identify natural giftedness in our children and teach them in a customized manner. On the other side of the coin, I think that a lot of those advanced classes are still good because they make us good thinkers, so maybe it’s a balance of stretching our brains and also being realistic =)
I know in high school, balance is the key. Working and getting bad grades isn’t a good idea. It’s balance. In my opinion, the only valuable subjects in high school are literature, spelling, and history. Literature and spelling, for obvious reasons. And history, because we need to learn from history.
Like Amy said, advanced courses also stretch your brain. I’m currently a freshman in high school, and I’m going to take either one or two AP literature courses next year. But then again, I want a degree in English or something like that.
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Don’t remind me how I think calculus is a big waste of time. However, in order to get into college to get a degree to get a good job, calculus is important 🙂
Excellent article! A great reminder to keep our focus and goals while home schooling. I had classes called “life skills” and always wondered why I had to take them. Now I get it! It’s really unfortunate that I took gym, health, Trig and a few of those advanced classes that I’ve never used. I never took Calculus. I have a great degree. But more than that, my life wouldn’t be one stitch different if I’d taken it.
I appreciate where you are coming from but must wonder if learning and the discipline you put into your study hours was “wasted.” Even if you may not have applied calculus concepts to real life, I believe that the time spent and knowledge gained are of value. But I’m a believer in balancing our study time and our real life time – learning to be good workers and entrepreneurs AND good students.
Yes, it is not that calculus it bad to know, I am just saying that there were so many other, real-world, subjects that I should have learned first. Thank you so much for your comment.
Yes – balance is the main key. If you really want to get picky about “wasting time”, is it really going to matter in ten years if you cleaned your house once a week or once a month? Maybe not, but it is important.
I saw this post shared by a friend in an Australian homeschooling networking group in Facebook 😀 Love it. And I totally agree. I dont want my kids to focus on education for the sake of grades or facts, but to think for themselves, serve the world, and become the best version of themselves. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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