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.