‘In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.’ – Fran Lebowitz.
What if randomly and out of the blue, a person was overheard saying that, “In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as addition.” Of course, they would be ridiculed and scoffed at. Similarly, even though algebra or other school subjects may not be used as often after a person leaves schooling, they are still used. If anything, the subjects taught in school can (and should) contribute to making a person a critical thinker and being a critical thinker is an essential part of living a smart life.
Lebowitz was conveying that in an everyday person’s life the need or use for algebra, and more broadly specific school subjects, are not as important as the education system makes it out to be. It is true that although subjects like chemistry and history are important, not everyone will become a historian or chemist. However, a more accurate statement would be that while the material learned in the education system is important, many other life skills that are just as significant are being ignored.
In schools, instead of being taught skills that will carry over into the adult or “real world”, students are taught subjects which enable them to pass a standardized test so that schools can gain or retain funding. Yes, the subjects taught have an important part to play in the general intelligence of a child, but it does not adequately prepare them for a life outside of a k-12 environment. Life skills such as paying taxes or voting are very important to learn as well. The argument can be made that the parents are supposed to teach their own children about the personal skills they need in life. If this is true, then why don’t parents teach their kids math or sciences as well? One, it is because teachers are college educated specialists who most of the time know what they are doing and two, in the same way of thinking, the best way to master something correctly is to be taught the subject by someone who has gone to school and studied it. Children would be much more prepared for college and life if lifestyle skills were treated as important as core subjects are. According to Jon Marcus, in a 2016 paper published in The Hechinger Report, only 17 percent of Tennessee public high school students scored a college-level score on standardized tests. ( http://hechingerreport.org/solution-obvious-rare-making-high-school-graduates-ready-college/)
Also, emotional education (outside of the mandatory bullying prevention week) should be given more attention. In schools, children are taught that because they are young they are wrong. The number of kids committing suicide and self-harm are way higher than they should be. This can be especially true for a larger school where children are more likely to be known as a number and young voices get lost in the crowd. Extracurriculars and fine arts are just as important as math and science for these kids. Students need a way to express themselves, or show excellence, especially if they are unable to do this in a traditional classroom setting. After spending all day at a desk, regurgitating all the information taught to them, an extracurricular activity can be just what students need. This brings out another flaw in the school system, when school funding is pulled, the first thing to go is usually the fine arts. As much focus should go into feeding the imagination as well as learning the information.
Even with the negatives of education, it is the thing that keeps the human race alive. Education improves lives, elevates stations and promotes equality. Being educated will almost certainly improve a person’s life, in a mental sense. When a person is educated they often realize the errors they make in their daily lives and correct them. Also, because anyone can become educated, anyone can become a doctor or lawyer. No single person owns education.
There is algebra in real life. Let’s take a birthday party for example, something that many people all over the world have. Y= XZ is an algebraic equation. What if X was the amount of people coming to the party and Z was the cost of each person’s goodie bag with Y being the total cost. Even though it is simple, it is still algebra and was learned in a school. Although Lebowitz had a point and important life skills such as investing or balancing a check book should be taught, the things learned in school are still important and apply to the “real world” as well.