As an educator I have often felt tongue tied when students pose questions such as ‘Why are we learning this? How is this useful? What if I am in some other profession and do not use what we are learning now? The whole idea of connectedness to real life is severely challenged on such occasions. In my student days, even though I couldn’t muster the courage to ask my teachers such tricky questions, I cannot deny that I did not entertain such thoughts on topics like quadratic equations, dissection of rats etc. Years later, when I became an English teacher I felt that I was right in having those misgivings about the relevance of every subject that I had attempted to master at school.
In recent days, my offspring who was struggling with a mathematical problem asked me if I could assist him in solving it. Without any reluctance I worked out the sum for him in no time. He was impressed and asked me how I was able to solve the afore-mentioned problem. Unconsciously, I mumbled back to him that I had learnt it at school, a quarter century ago and in that split second, I felt like the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes and went ‘Eureka!’ an interjection I had not fully comprehended until that moment. These days when my sane world is rocked by unexpected questions about the relevance of the topics explored in class I look them in the eye and say, ‘Even if the knowledge gained is not employed by you in your future profession, it will definitely be useful to clarify the doubts your children may have when they commence their schooling.’ As this was a far off thing, they accepted the pearls of wisdom lisped by me without any arguments or further questions.