Teen Talk: Are we using our learning years wisely?

Lucia Marsiglio

As a teenager, the biggest event in my life right now is high school. The advice I hear most of the time is “get good grades, get into a good college.” Ask any teenager and they will most likely agree that high school is what takes up most of their brain space and causes the majority of their worries.

I have been a straight-A student for most of my student career (yes, yes, thank you very much, but applause isn’t necessary). Up until very recently, I didn’t even realize that it was an option to not do your homework (I know. I’m an angel, a saint, really). But I feel like I’ve suddenly woken up. All around me I see kids furiously taking notes, eyes glued to the smart board. And I realized something. No one, not a single person, is asking why.

Why do I need to know how to graph a sinusoidal line curve? All my teachers just groaned at that sentence. I have heard so many people dismiss this question over the years. My math teacher even has a poster on his wall with all of the professions that use trigonometry. But I haven’t heard a teacher actually answer this question, ever. And not a single one of the poster professions appeals or has ever appealed to me.

I want to make it clear that I’m not hating on teachers. Teachers are awesome and I would never want to suggest anything to the contrary. However, I do think I deserve an answer to this question, even if it makes teachers and administrators uncomfortable. Because this is years and years of my life that I’m devoting to learning this stuff.

Suppose you applied for a job at a company. You walk into the interview and the man interviewing you says “I would really like to hire you. You could learn a lot from this position and be very happy here.”

“Well, that sounds great,” you say, “what will my salary be?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” the man says, “you’ll work for four years and you’ll learn enough that it will be worth it.”

“Oh, OK, what will I learn?”

“Oh lots of things.”

“Well I want to be a photographer. Will I get a lot of experience working with cameras?”

“Oh yes, you’ll learn lots about cameras, after all this is a camera manufacturing company. You’ll work on putting the screws into the cameras to hold the lenses in place.”

“But that’s not really...”

“No time!” he says. “Your first shift starts in 30 seconds, off you go!”

Would you listen to this man? Would you go off to work every morning and happily trust that putting screws into camera lenses for four years would prepare you for life as a photographer?

For a long time I have trusted that performing mentally menial tasks will get me where I need to go.

But recently I’ve begun to feel like something’s missing. I feel like something’s just not right. Screwing in camera lenses is related to photography, in a way. But couldn’t one just pick up a camera and start shooting pictures?

The man at the interview would say,

“Of course not! Who ever heard of a photographer who didn’t know how to put screws into camera lenses?!”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I know plenty of successful photographers who almost definitely have no idea about how to even begin assembling cameras. And I also know plenty of successful writers (which is what I want to be) who haven’t the first clue how to graph a sinusoidal line curve.

Lucia Marsiglio is a sophomore at Delaware Academy in Delhi. This is her Teen Talk debut. Readers can email her at luciakmarsiglio@gmail.com.

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