Imaginative Potential in Useless Academic Requirements #IWSG #amwriting #WednesdayMotivation

[I wrote this post as a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our worries and also offer support and encouragement to each other on the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re a writer like me and you’re looking for a bit of support, you can click the link and sign up here]

This month’s awesome Co-Hosts:    Raimey Gallant, Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!

Check out our IWSG homepage.  And as always, thank you to founder Alex J. Cavaugh 🙂 


Galileo Quote

This past Monday while I was getting ready for work, while the pups wove in and out of my legs in the bathroom, the 6 a.m. news caught my attention. A survey of post high school students listed four top useless required learning items:

  • The Pythagorean Theorem
  • The Periodic Table
  • Protons and Electrons
  • The sum of Pi = 3.14 and then some.

Post high school students cited they not once used these formulas or learning points in school since they were required to memorize them, so why not take more classes in managing college student loans, learning how to do taxes, and how to budget money once out of high school?

Do I agree?

I’d have to say no, and maybe a little yes?

Math and Physics were not my friends. I’m a picture person. I don’t memorize lengthy jumbles of words and numbers without seeing a bigger application. However, just because I struggle to understand certain concepts, doesn’t mean these concepts shouldn’t be required learning. In fact, I believe in Plato when he said, “Geometry will draw the soul toward truth and create the spirit of philosophy.”

So where am I going with this conversation of science and math?

This month’s IWSG question asks, “Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?”

I find creative outlets in everything. From the way I cook, to the way I work on the computer as a graphic designer in Public Relations, to the way I write my notes on a page at work when my print and cursive swirl together, and my bullets become flaming falling stars (which aren’t really stars by the way). In fact, my whole note page may become one giant doodle.

Creativity never leaves us. We always find our own ways of self expression.

And what do math and physics have to do with creativity? Lately, they’ve been the source of my creative inspiration. My second draft in  my YA Urban Fantasy/Sci-Fi manuscript has challenged me to merge science and magic. I’ve had to revisit the topics I once dreaded, and am now doing it on my own terms. No horrid college textbooks. No over the head lectures where professors talk to the chalk board more than to my face. I don’t have that kind of time anymore, so I invest it wisely in YouTube PBS mini lessons in astronomy and physics. I’ve covered everything from magnetic fields, to electron charges, to neutron stars, magnetars, galaxy formations, and the importance of tides and how they shift with the new and full moons.

And required subjects in high school? Sure I would have loved to have taken accounting or a business class instead of Chemistry. I don’t think skipping Chemistry would have done me an ounce of good. Why? Required academics exposes our minds to unfathomable possibility. I now have a greater imagination, and it’s one mixed with science, hypotheses, and magical potential.

What about you? Would you agree with the post high school graduates? What was your least favorite subject in high school? Was any subject or formula useless to you? I’d love to hear it.

About Erika Beebe

Author, dreamer, and a momma to a couple of wonderful kids, I try to live life everyday in hope and inspire others along my way.

Posted on February 6, 2019, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. I think I can safely say that the vocabulary-based foreign languages I took turned out to be utterly useless.
    It’s just that for all the hours I spent learning how to say “I have history 4th period” I don’t believe I’ve **ever** said that in real life.

    • That is a good one Karen. The best thing I can think about taking four years of German were the friends I made and The trip to Germany I took with the class. No one I know speaks it anymore 😊

  2. Why can’t they learn both? I did have one semester in economics where we learned about writing checks and paying rent, but there needs to be more, plus at least a year of people skills. Less electives and more requirements would cover everything. (Although I agree about geometry – not once have I ever needed to prove anything with two triangles. LOL!)

  3. Yikes. I never enjoyed math or science. Maybe some science. But math, never. It’s so hard to be creative when you have to be perfect or it doesn’t count!

  4. Love the quote you had at the top of your post. And awesome how you see creativity in everything you do. I’m not a science or math person either but my daughter loves science. And I think that it’s great that you’re incorporating it in your new YA story.

  5. ACK! I despised math, but muddled my way through it. High School is rough, not only the learning aspects, but also socializing, being liked and so on, for teenagers. I remember those days quite vividly.

    With enough credits, I graduated a year ahead of time. Now, I wish I wouldn’t have done that. I missed out on my senior year and all that it entailed.

  6. I’m glad you have use for it, but I haven’t used higher level math since school. Learning how to do taxes – now that would’ve been a handy class.

  7. Least favorite subject in school…? Ha! That was English for me. Though I don’t use some of the more complex math equations, I do find my daily activities include the scientific method. Being a programmer is part of it, but also the try-fail cycles I go through daily with cooking or getting my kids to behave or working out plot problems. The basics definitely helped me out!

  8. Former high school teacher here–English, French, German, theater (or theatre, if you’re feeling snooty). A favorite quote: “When you learn a foreign language, you don’t just say things differently, you say different things.” If I opened my students’ eyes to other ways of being in the world, I’ve done my job, whether they ever use their French/German vocab again. As for my English students, I hope they retained what I taught about constructing an argument with convincing evidence. Written communication is increasingly important these days. I wish I’d had more freedom in choosing the works of fiction I taught, but I did my best with what I had available.

  9. I hope those aren’t eliminated (like so much of history has been). It’s not always about memorizing Pi to 100 places. It’s about understanding its function, marveling at people like Daniel Tammett who can recite it pretty much forever.


  10. I won’t comment on the academics but I do agree the internet allows us to explore information on our terms. Learning is learning no matter where it happens.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  11. I guess I’m kind of in the camp of “teach them to read and the value of research, not to memorize tables and theorems.” Besides the periodic table changes periodically. I’m so glad I don’t have to memorize it now. My chem class held me good stead the other night at a dinner party. I fortunately remembered the formula for salt. Like in please pass the NaCl. 🙂

  12. On one hand, you’re right, Erika. Learning a wide range of subjects opens the mind. But there are exceptions. I hated chemistry at school, it was my lowest grade in my high school diploma, and I never used it since. I don’t think I needed it.
    I think teaching students to think for themselves and analyze what they see and hear is much more important than memorizing the periodic table. Sadly, most teachers find it much easier to teach facts and data than to teach original thinking.
    Besides, in many societies, original thinking is highly discouraged, up to the imprisonment and murder. It is much safer in those societies to say: “yes, sir” to the authority figures than to think, understand, and act.

    • I love your thoughtful reflection Olga. It is sad about teaching curriculum sometimes. I struggled in chemistry and spent many hours after school with my teachers only to squeak out a sub par grade. I worked and worked at some topics but could never totally get the grade I wanted. Sigh. One day I do believe we will get there 🙂

  13. I’m a little torn on whether some things we learned in school became useful. I think the process by which they were learned taught me how to self-teach myself what I needed to know, and being able to think about concepts in different ways is certainly applicable to life.

  14. I’m more in the school of thought that people should be learning things that would be applicable in the “real world”. Alas, the school system is not built that way.

  15. Even though I don’t work in science, I can think of times I used all four of those “theories” that I learned in middle or high school. That said, my least favorite class was taxidermy. They offered it as an elective and I thought it would be fun and neat and I learned that it’s really hard getting a fish or animal look natural AND IT IS NOT THE CLASS TO HAVE RIGHT BEFORE LUNCH!

  16. To this day I don’t understand the Pythagorean theorem (and always have to look it up to spell it!) and I dropped physics in college, but that hasn’t stopped me from reading books on it and from being the Girls in STEM committee chair for my local women’s volunteer organization. We don’t have to be superstars in a topic to get something out of it, I think, just have a desire to understand, right? Have a great day, Erika. pam

  17. Ronel Janse van Vuuren

    It turns out that I got a lot from the subjects I took in school… When new puppies have worms, I can identify them accurately 😉 Seriously, though, I learned the art of accounting which comes in handy in my author business, I learned how to type and use MS Word, and the stuff I don’t use in “real” life, I use in my writing 🙂

    Ronel visiting for Feb’s IWSG Day Being an Insecure Writer — And Happy About It

  18. Geometry in so far as angle calculations might be on my ‘don’t need to learn list’…but not really. I’ve had a similar discussion often with my husband, since the German system is quite different and does tend to concentrated more on what each student does need for what is expected of them (there’s a lot behind this, but that’s something for another day). Anyway, I explain to him that it’s not necessarily about learning something specific but rather the thought process and broadening the mind as well as the way of thinking. To be exposed to things already changes the way someone thinks in a small way. And this broadening is important.

  19. Geometry and science equations are some of the most useless things I’ve been forced to learn. Unless you’ll be working in the industry, it’s pretty much useless the minute you graduate. Thank you for sharing!

  20. I never really considered my doodles art. I can’t take notes without doodles. I used to wonder if my penn was idle, did my brain stop working? LOL

    I have never used algebra post high school. My dad and my teacher fibbed about how much I’d be solving for X in my adult life. Now chemistry…I do use that. Thanks to chemistry, I know to wash off a caustic quickly.

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