Classroom knowledge isn’t “real world” knowledge

By Kate Cullen

One of the great things about social media is that people are able to share small tidbits of information about their lives to others. Whether it is personal information or universal truths we all can relate to, the information on social media that receives the most views seems to be the things that everyone is thinking, but no one is saying. 

For example, the other day as I scrolled through my endless Facebook newsfeed, I came across a meme, an idea or style popularized through mimicry and imitation, that I found hilarious. However, I laugh at pretty much everything, so for me to think something is funny doesn’t say much. 

But thousands of other people must have also thought it was funny because of the outrageous amount of “likes” this particular meme had received. 

It was a picture of a high school student standing in front of a chalkboard covered in what looked like the longest math equation ever. Underneath the picture, it read something like, “So glad I know how to solve complex math equations that I’ll never use in real life.” 

It said something a little more clever than that, but you get the idea.   

I found this particularly hilarious because I’m quite certain almost everyone who was once a high school student can remember asking themselves, “When am I ever going to use this?” Especially when it comes to math. 

I then began to think about all of the “real world” things I will someday need to know, but have not learned in the classroom. Yes, I can probably tell you the equation to find the radius of a circle, but I wouldn’t know the first thing about buying a car. 

I suddenly found myself wishing for a class on “How to live life: Adult edition.” 

I then thought about how such a class did exist. In fact, I took it my senior year of high school. It was called consumer economics, a required course specifically designed to teach suburban kids about the “real world.” 

The class focused on extremely relevant topics to high school students like how to file for taxes, how to haggle for purchasing a car and when the best time to buy a house is. 

While that information is essential to know as an adult, I can remember sitting there and consciously thinking — I will never be able to remember this information for when I actually need it. Unfortunately, I was not buying houses or cars in high school so the information was lost on me. 

Turns out, as an adult, you need to know the kind of information my stubborn teenage self was so unwilling to learn. 

As I regrettably approach the permanence of adulthood via graduation, I find myself wishing I could retake that class. Because even though I have learned about literary criticism and post-modern writing techniques, I would not be able to tell you how to refinance a mortgage. 

And I’m fairly certain that the majority of college students would not know either. These are things we’re going to need to know, and soon. 

But we’re not going to learn these things from a classroom. We’re going to learn them from trial and error, making mistakes and talking to others. 

The fact of the matter is: I have learned more essential life skills over beers with my Dad on a Saturday night than I have in any classroom. 

Our random conversations about the future have led to key lessons on different types of insurance as well as how to be realistic and smart with money. 

That’s information I won’t ever be tested on, but should take notes on nevertheless. We’re not going to learn important life lessons from a teacher; we’re going to learn them from our parents who have already done it all. 

Even though we can laugh at ourselves about how unintelligent we are when it comes to the “real world” via memes and vines, sometimes that immediate chuckle can lead to a nervous giggle.

Which, of course, turns into small whimpering noises as reality suddenly sets in and you ask yourself: Do I even know how to be an adult? 

Kate is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]