Throughout history students have searched for ways to wiggle out of their doing their homework and studying for tests. In all this time, they keep coming back to the same tired question that has plagued parents and teachers for centuries: When am I ever going to use this? Comically, some children come up with this question on their own thinking as if they have discovered some new loophole that no one has ever thought of before. Believe me when I say – we’ve all been there, and we’ve all asked that question before. Every since Aristotle threw his scrolls in the air and whined to Plato, “when am I ever going to need syllogisms when I am playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers?”
I am going to attempt to answer this age-old question for you. Here are seven values for studying subjects that you do not like.
1. Mental Training
You not think that learning about World War I is going to help you in the future, or that you will ever use geometry. Every one of these classes makes your brain better. You will learn how to memorize, you will learn how to analyze and synthesize data. You will learn the definitions of words like “analyze” and “synthesize.” You will learn logical thinking skills. You will always have an advantage because you have a better brain. If you are the type who likes to ride a motorcycle without a helmet; then maybe you don’t care about your brain, but I assume most of you do.
Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom,” (NIV). It takes humility to accept that the adults around you might know what is best for you. Your parents, teachers and youth ministers – if these people are telling you that there is value in working hard and getting good grades. It is probably true.
If you will give the subject a chance, you may discover something about yourself. You may not realize that you actually do enjoy it. I took Algebra in the 8th grade. I was not into it. I didn’t like my teacher. I was unmotivated. I wondered when I would ever use what I was learning in the future. Somewhere about the beginning of the fourth quarter that school year we started graphing, and I secretly liked it. I didn’t tell any of my friends, but I even started graphing things on my free time. I discovered something about myself and eventually went on to get a degree in math education.
Laziness is never a good excuse. Most students who ask the question, “when am I ever going to use this?” are really saying, “This is hard. I’m searching for a reason to quit.” Every career path you choose will require hard work. Even if it is song writing. There will be days when your producer needs more lyrics and you just don’t feel like writing lyrics that day. If you have developed the habit of checking out when things get hard – then you will blow your chance. Then where will you be? Any subject from Spanish to Biology will train you to persevere through difficulty or to quit. Perseverance leads to maturity, (James 1:4).
I know there are some of you who are saying, “all I ever want to do in the future is this one thing. I can do it. I will do it. I don’t want to learn anything else.”
I know people who have said that about baseball, singing, etc. In most cases, it doesn’t pan out the way they wanted, and there are not many good jobs available for someone who flunked all of their classes. The better you perform in more subject areas; the more doors will open up for you in the future. If you are fine living inside this “tiny little box,” and only pursuing a career in this “tiny little box,” and pay scale inside that box and duking it out with everyone else for those jobs inside that tiny little box then fine. However if you want some breathing room, choices and freedom you will have a bigger box if you will give some other subjects a chance.
Have some respect for yourself. Don’t be a whiner, honestly, it isn’t attractive to anybody. Don’t turn in shoddy work. Always do your best. Everything you do is a reflection of who your are. Every now and then I have a student ask me to write a letter of recommendation for them for college, scholarship, or a job. I love bragging on students who were diligent hard workers with a positive attitude. For them, you could shellac my recommendation and hang it on the wall. They may never use chemistry or physics in the future, but that recommendation they earned by working hard can be used anywhere. If you don’t have enough self-respect to do your best, then do me or some other adult a favor and don’t ask for a recommendation.
Whether you think you will need that material in the future or not; your performance in that class is a reflection of your relationship with God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving,” (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV).
That passage has to do with serve slave-masters – some of whom were evil and cruel. If God expects our best when serving them, then certainly he would expect our best when serving parents and teachers who love us and have our best interest in mind. Memorize your Spanish vocabulary as if God is your teacher. Read Pride and Prejudice as if God assigned it. Work out all your math problems as if God is going to grade them.
“When are you going to use this?” That is the wrong question. The better question is “what can I gain from this?” God can use these subjects to hone our mental training, teach us humility, discover new things about the person He created us to be, learn perseverance, seize new opportunities, gain self-respect (and the respect of others), and the chance to worship Him as you go through school.