"What do smart people think about. Fancy things I suppose. I wish I knew some fancy things alredy."
-Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
"When are we going to use this?"
That was our marching anthem in middle school. I'm not going to be an architect, engineer, or research physicist, so why should I learn this equation? Do I need to know the history of Texas if I'm never going to live in Texas? I'm pretty sure my job won't require me to write anything more complicated than an email. That plant's just a plant whether I know anything about the cell membrane or not. And tell me, senor, why am I learning how to say "Mis bis abuelos viven en un casa no muy lejos de tu casa?" My great grandparents aren't living, let alone living near anyone who speaks Spanish.
By high school our cries dissipated. Not because the teachers gave us answers we liked, but because we found our own. We became part time students, and spent the other part of our time in a vocational training that taught us things engineers, dental hygienists, and cosmetologists actually need to know. We interned at hospitals, aquariums, and publishing companies. When sophomores saw us walking the halls in scrubs or firehouse uniforms, name tags swinging from our necks, they knew we knew where we were going.
And how to get there.
We cut the fluff classes and applied for work release. We graduated early so we could save some money for college already. We went AP or stockpiled concurrent credit hours. And it finally clicked. Maybe we won't use any of our classes in every day life, except for driver's ed and cooking. But all of it's stepping stones to get us where we need to go.
Now that I've passed all the stepping stones, I can learn whatever I want. And I've learned a secret:
It's not about the grades.
It's not about the diploma.
It's not about the transcripts.
It's not about the resume.
So far as society's concerned, education's about producing a population that isn't full of idiots, and so far as you are concerned, it's about making your life a little more colorful.
I'm ready, college.
Give me some fancy things to think about.