The educational system, like mayonnaise, is one of the inventions of mankind that is simultaneously glorious and gravely misunderstood.

Many people believe that these objects are accessories, created by man to magnify and fine-tune his pre-existing senses of perception. Education is the method by which a child is taught to correctly interpret the information and the world that supplies it, while mayonnaise makes everything more appealing _ and when I say everything, I do mean deli meats and supermodels. Of course, the beliefs of "many people" are in fact entirely irrelevant to the realities of everyone else; many people voted for George W. Bush _ twice.

(Isn't it strange that in a year from now, George Bush won't be the president of the United States? Great leaping Republicans, if Mini-Me McCain doesn't take his place, then who are we going to foist the blame for all of America's problems onto? There'll be no one left that people of all genders, nationalities and races can make fun of except Britney Spears _ I'm thinking 2012 Family Values Party nominee.)

All right, we've had our Bush misrepremockification for the morning, so let's stop pussyfooting around the real issues and talk about mayonnaise _ and I do mean the modern educational system. The reason that I've been comparing our system of education and mayonnaise _ the pseudo-reason anyway, since the real reason is that it makes no sense _ is to help our readers wade into the tremendously exciting concept that they'll soon be discovering the true purpose of the educational system. George Orwell had symbolism; Jessie Matus has condiments.

There is located somewhere in the body of each teenager a gland that secretes some sort of toxin that provokes a mighty teenage need to complain.

It is impossible that the environmental factors outside the teenage subject should do much to repress this effect; this impulse will and does manifest in every teenage human being from Trailer Tanya to Polo Paul. There is a certain sentence in the teenage complaint vocabulary that the nonexistent researchers of this field have dubbed the "universal whine" due to its overwhelming prevalence in all known teenage sub-groups.

The phrasing of the whine varies, but its overall sound pattern can be transcribed as:

"Why do I have to learn this? I'm never going to use it in the real world."

Mary had a little lamb, and teachers have psychotherapy. I don't believe that I've ever had an academic class in high school in which this wasn't asked or implied by someone at some point, and I've taken advanced physics (all of you who aren't OHS students or recent graduates won't have understood the grave implications of this sentence and have my permission to think about mayonnaise instead). What's always struck me about this question is the profound uselessness of it: no matter how many times in how many classrooms someone asks this, what ends up happening? The class laughs, the teacher pops another dose of something that may or may not be legal to possess on school grounds, and the lesson continues. The test comes; the student who asked this question is shocked to receive a low grade courtesy of a failure to study and, Karma's A Any-Assertive-Woman-As-Portrayed-By-The-Media-Who-Isn't-Also-Incredibly-Attractive, Incorporated.

Ever since the dawn of time, when dinosaurs roamed the plains of Graceland and little cavemen children stomped off to cave school with their mastodon backpacks and electronic DungBerries, the practical use of many high school subjects has been called into question. There are no sacred subjects in this eternal quest to get out of doing work; although math and science subjects tend to bear the largest onslaughts of the universal whine, English and history classes are also regularly targeted by whine squads across America. Unfortunately, the whine squad soldiers have proved exceedingly reluctant to follow the mastodons into extinction.

There is, however unimportant it may be, a certain validity to the universal whine. It is of course true that certain topics taught in schools prove to be more or less useless in the majority of post-school occupations. For example, European history to a veterinarian in practice is as indispensable as a bicycle-riding fish is to a lesbian; therapists are spared any practical reason to remember their high school calculus courses by the fact that very few people _ outside of high school students currently taking calculus _ have recurring nightmares about limits and derivatives. The word "accountant" will someday be translated as "one hired to do mathematical work that someone with more money really didn't want to do."

If this is true, then what is the purpose of advanced education? What is the use of thermonuclear physics if it can't convince a Realtor's client to take a second look at that $50 million mansion with self-cleaning rugs and water-powered foot massagers in every bathroom?

The true purpose of mandatory education, beyond basic skill levels, is obedience training.

The human world is full of unpleasant situations, and the continuation of our current existence is reliant on our members placing themselves into those situations voluntarily. At work, in any field of work, you are expected _ in exchange for money or goods _ to do as you are told. Therein lies the ultimate lesson of the workplace, a lesson that must be learned by all workers lest they starve in the streets: Obey the machine. Obey those who pay.

Beyond the frills of employee benefits and labor relations, beyond the ill-fated ideas of young people setting out to "do what they love," the purpose of employing people is to have them do exactly what you tell them to do. Almost everyone is at some point an employee of someone else; almost every human being eventually has to submit completely to the orders of someone else or hit the highway. In this sense, how is the classroom anything but a training simulation for the workplace? Homework, projects, tests _ all are the juvenile versions of tasks that employees have to complete. It is in the classroom that the biological onset of teenage rebellion and quarrelsomeness is broken on the wheel; each homework assignment deals a blow to the vanity of a student's perceived independence from "the system," for it's difficult to be a rebel when you're also on the brink of failing history and you have a paper on Richard Nixon due tomorrow morning.

There are two components of teenage education: the telling of knowledge and the knowledge that one must do what one are told. This is the ultimate purpose of high school, where many students for the first time must actually work to pass or get good grades. The students who use the universal whine as an excuse to fail their classes are the students who will later be forced to learn this lesson in the kitchens of Burger King, and that's the simple truth.

More students must learn to appreciate _ before the future has become the present and a newspaper job listing is staring them in the eye _ that a failing grade is merely a gentler version of a future pink slip: a pink slip that will have no make-up test.

Jessie Matus will be a senior at Oneonta High School this fall.

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