Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Sure, but how does it matter to you? Why should you be learning this?
Your mom cooks food every day for you when you go to school. One day, she goes on a month-long vacation to care for your grandmother. Now, you start eating snacks for a few days and manage somehow. Though you’ve learned to manage, you’re not taking your healthy diet. Thence, you start feeling tired after little activity and grow weaker day by day…
This is what happens when Mitochondria choose to take a break from generating ATPs (Adenosine TriPhosphate) and ADPs (Adenosine DiPhosphate) — the chemicals in your body that you call ENERGY.
So, you may not need to know about Mitochondria until you see someone dis-EASED by its malfunction. But the point is, it has got a real-life application only if you look beyond the words of your textbook (or imagine your cells functioning inside your body).
Isn’t it more interesting in real life too—to visualize concepts as part of our daily life?
School subjects waste our life?!
We are on the same page when you think that learning about integers in math and rulers in history is a waste of time — because they clearly do not have any application or value in our life. But there’s a difference; we have chosen to look for their reasons.
Think of history this way.
You remember your late grandparents with so much love. Your parents remember your great grandparents with so much pride. But how do you do that? It’s through the little stories that your parents tell or emotional accounts you hold in your memories. Now please say – Why do you learn History?
We used to rote it. No denying there. But surely there’s more?
When the rulers in your history textbook were first remembered, they were also ancestors to some specific clans. Like how you recall your grandpa or grandma, rulers’ predecessors remembered and cherished them. But this act of recollecting your grandparents or ancients inspires some takeaways from their CHARACTER to be carried forward as cultural impressions. And so the books intend you to dissect those character traits and apply them in light of your own era – in your worldview, in your actions, and in your behavior.
Let’s understand this better through examples.
Akbar and Maharana Pratap fought for their own reasons. Clearly, Akbar wanted endless power as he grew up seeing his Mughal ancestors, while Maharana Pratap believed in preserving and protecting his culture and people. The former was seeking fleeting pleasure at the ignorance of people’s interests, the latter was willing to sacrifice for the same people.
Interestingly enough, Akbar was into poetry and music. He and Samudragupta were unique rulers who did soul searching through poetry and music and nevertheless allowed themselves to be challenged by morality. Each such aspect of a ruler that we learn during our history lessons teaches us how to be better versions of ourselves. Better yet, these lessons also teach us to be better leaders.
Now, you’ll somewhere agree to find meaning and applications in history (If not, ask a politician).
If you are thinking of integers now, explore a bit in detail about civil engineering or astronomy and you will see the vital role integers play in it.
History is just nice to hear?!
You may say that learning skills like graphic designing, coding, creative writing, or data analytics, are more visibly significant as you see people around you applying those skills. But wouldn’t doing the character analysis of ancients evolve your mindset creatively and analytically? And wouldn’t solving integration problems give you the kick and teach you that any problem can be solved if you persist and challenge your intellect as you develop a new code.
Learn vs apply
So, now one question remains. Are the concepts you learn in school useless or did you just never learn to apply them effectively?
We already highlighted the importance of asking questions. Ask them at every step of your learning process, on every concept, and even on concepts not being taught. The best way to ask a question is to first think, “Who does it relate to?” and then ask those teachers or random people in your life. Moreso, observe your surroundings. You may find applications that even your teachers have not realized yet.
Ultimately, IMAGINATION is the key to your findings—try to put every possible bit of knowledge to use. How about using active-passive voice to make conversation with parents a fun time? Or using accounting to understand the cash flow of your father’s business or mother’s salary? Or use physics to understand nature?
Albeit, it is agreeable that you may not find an interest in everything. But we suggest not to dismiss it as boring. A keen study in geography may inspire one person to be a geographer and someone else to use Google Maps in a smarter way to plan road trips.
You know what? A naive you sitting in your classroom may not be able to grasp the whole world in your worldview. But the you in your 30s may be able to make a lot of sense of what you read or explored back in your school days. In those moments of nothingness, you connect the dots from your classroom to your life experiences and give new theories to the world to listen to.
So, to all the students, we advise you to ask many questions and let them be answered with time. You will be surprised by the many ways your questions will be answered. Take the UPSC exam for example.
UPSC—Facts or analysis?
In India, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is deemed to be the most difficult exam (especially for its interview round). Amidst the varied syllabus contents, it is synonymously popular around General Knowledge. GK mostly relates to facts and current affairs. So, is that around rote learning again? NO.
For Indian Civil Services, the demand is up for the most analytical minds. You are being evaluated on your analysis and interpretation of those facts and the impact of those current affairs in light of various aspects of society, economy, and environment. So, you can’t go on with just learning things. You have to apply them in light of India, and in light of the world economy and society at large.
Take, for example, India approved an MoU with Turkmenistan on Cooperation in Disaster Management. This will help in strengthening the areas of preparedness, response, and capacity building in the field of Disaster Management which will lead the way for stronger societies and safer economies of both countries, and reduced impact on the Global Stock Market thereon.
Besides, foresee the impacts of those actions taken by the government or discrete individuals on our environment such as the 5G rollout announcement in the Union Budget or the Clouded Leopard, a vulnerable animal species being spotted in Nagaland for the first time respectively. This is the level of critical thinking and application that UPSC requires, which is why it is deemed to be the hardest exam to crack in India.
But does your teacher encourage critical thinking? We know for a fact many don’t.
But my teachers and friends aren’t like that…
“This sounds interesting. But my teachers just enter the class, read the book, follow their age-old methods and call it quits.”
We understand that in most cases, you’re not provided with the right environment to explore a concept, much less ask the right questions. Instead, cramming is the way to go in many classes. However, it starts with YOU. Curiosity creates a ripple effect. When you ask a question, you start a discussion in the class and a conversation with the teacher. Not all of your questions may be taken seriously by the same teacher (even if it relates to that teacher). But you gotta keep asking as many people as you need until you find the one who can answer you.
We understand that some teachers will persuade you to memorize the facts and worry about exams and grades. However, rarely do people remember concepts by chasing exams and grades. Instead, it is asking the whys and hows that help you truly understand something and retain the information in your brain. So don’t let your lectures be boring! Ask questions, seek applications and create a fun learning experience for everyone around you.
A note for teachers
We appreciate your dedication to taking us to our next step— to pass through our predefined learning processes. However, let’s strive not to pass but to excel in our abilities as we look beyond the words and into the world.
For this, let us
- First, understand that some students might not speak up but deep down they are probably struggling to understand concepts. So, find fun ways to teach lessons.
- Second, make language learning simpler. Let’s have a day when everyone in the class tries to speak in passive voice or indirect speech, or give them an assignment to write about their favorite celebrity using adjectives in every sentence. We can do similar activities in vernacular languages as well.
- Third, let’s not read out history. Instead, let’s have casual plays every Saturday with a changing group of students. Let them choose their favorite personality from the past, study him/her for a week, and experience their actions in an entertaining way.
- Fourth, math class can have simpler case studies from architecture and astronomy or something from current affairs once a week. Let students solve problems framed around real life situations.
- Fifth, social and political studies must not be limited to the study of political structures. The future voters deserve to learn to analyze the candidates in advance. Try to have an unbiased discussion of local and central ministers, wherein students can pick a candidate from recent elections and analytically judge their records.
- Sixth, please spare the students from reading the computer textbook in their class itself. Let them see through every single program in the computer lab instead.
So, are you going to apply the idea of ‘applying your learnings’? Or apply the idea of sharing these ideas with the fellow little-big learners around you? You decide. We just want to let you know that we are all ears to your ideas of applying concepts and the findings you’ve got — in the comments.