Are core subjects necessary?

Each day as I approach my seat in Mrs. Whalen’s room—middle left column, farthest seat back—a black poster with various colored rows captures my attention. Literally, the poster is almost exactly level with my eyesight, so there’s not much I can do to avoid acknowledging it. Anyways, the poster has a column of math subjects on its left and a row of diverse majors and careers on the top. The black dots represent each math subject that is utilized in a specific major or career, and there is a myriad of dots on the poster. 

Obviously, the purpose of the poster is to support the argument that the concepts students learn in math will be utilized later. However, upon analyzing the poster, I noticed that there were a few careers that did not require an understanding of a certain higher-level math subject in order to be successful. For the current students learning those math subjects who will blossom into members of said careers, I feel bad. 

And I can’t imagine that math is the only subject guilty of this—the truth is it’s probably not. While sitting through dull days of classes, the question of whether or not the information I am being taught is actually important—and useful—has entered my mind and controlled my thoughts like an infectious disease. One piece of knowledge that I have gained from the dystopian novels we read in English classes is that unlimited information is important and necessary; however, is there a point to requiring students to know a fair amount of information in every core subject before they specialize in one within their career? 

An article on the website InsideHigherEd acknowledges that students enjoy flexibility and choice; but, it argues that too much choice is detrimental to students. The article says that students need to appreciate direction and structure rather than being allowed to compose an entire schedule of courses that allow limited intellectual stimulation. The article’s overreaching argument is that faculty members and administration have an obligation to provide students with the necessary framework to grow intellectually as well as graduate.   

I would much rather be temporarily stressed about information in school I do not instantly understand rather than being ignorant altogether”

A post on Harvard’s graduate school’s newspaper refutes that argument through providing the opinion of teacher and author Professor David Perkins. Perkins states that the lessons taught today will not play a significant role in students’ lives in the end. He includes that there are also lessons that aren’t being taught that would have a much greater return on investment. He argues that educators have a “quiet crisis of content” and that the quietness is not due to a lack of voices but instead to the various other concerns in education muffling those voices. 

Perkins also argues that obtaining a wide reservoir of knowledge isn’t necessary or helpful if it’s not going to be utilized. He argues that knowledge’s purpose is to go somewhere—not just to be accumulated. Therefore, he believes that far too much emphasis is placed upon short-term academic successes like scoring well on a math test or getting an A on an oral presentation. However, he does include the fact that it’s nice to know different things. 

And I agree with that. I would much rather be temporarily stressed about information in school that I do not instantly understand rather than being ignorant altogether. I could not have eventually come to understand what was once unknown. Although not every single piece of information that has been drilled into me through multiple core subjects in my schooling will be necessarily utilized in my future career, those pieces of information did create the foundation for the next step of challenging information to be laid upon—year after year.