Andy’s Newspaper column archive

Is School a waste of time ©

If you ever want to learn the truth, there are a few short cuts you can use. But first why even bother? Is school a waste of time? As an example, I have often been involved in discussions on how things work My skills in examining machine malfunctions and determining their cause is based on a lifetime of understanding equipment, its design and intended use, reverse engineering something.  So it is also in discussions about concepts and beliefs in all aspects of life. What are the logical and emotional arguments you can use to better understand and argue your position?

Many discussions center around life in general. Is school a waste of time? There is a myriad of topics I can cite. Here is an example. I had a recent confrontation, friendly but still a confrontation, with a friend about nuclear material to be stored at Yucca Mountain. I see storage there as bringing benefits for research, new uses for the material, education, health and envisioned the material as being the spent fuel rods. He opposed the storage citing the dangers of a liquid sludge being there. We have yet to address these two issues separately. He has excellent arguments for his position and I too believe mine are valid. Our last brief encounter was when I realized the fact that we were each looking at the issue from different perspectives.

The underlying issue relates to an analogy. The window in the room is closed. My friend may be happy with that while I suffer discomfort from being in a stuffy room and I argue to open the window. Now comes the compromise. Lets just open the window a little bit. The window now will never be closed again. We will just debate the amount it will be open. Yucca Mountain exists but we cannot open it so the solutions is...? Is school a waste of time?

Another instance happened between my first wife and me. We would occasionally argue over issues and I never could figure out why I always came out on the losing end. Then one day I had an epiphany. I refused to answer her when she asked why I had done or not done a specific act. She had asked me a question, the answer to which would be wrong. There was no right answer, only one that would make me seem to be the problem.  

The point of these two stories is that I believe school had a purpose here. She learned ways to create a situation where she could prevail. It may have taken me a while to realize what was happening. I eventually refused to answer any questions, the answer to which would be wrong, resulting in an escalation of the argument.

Is school a waste of time?  It would appear so for some, but appearances could be deceiving.

Go to school to watch the conduct in two different classes. One where students are talking during class, eating, texting and doing their personal grooming. Yes they exist.

The other class students are attentive, participating and engaged. What is going on. Are we  wasting someone’s time? Yes. The teachers, the attentive students in the disruptive class, and yours, the reader of this column. You see, I do not look at money as just money. Money represents time, time you use from your life spent in getting money. Classroom one was wasting the time you used to make the money that paid for their education. Money represents time. In your business you would not tolerate this disrespect?

Now for some, perhaps for many, school is a waste of time. Can we fix this? Of course we can. Just throw more money at the problem. Not yours of course, other peoples money, better known as OPM. If you believe this, fine, but count me out. I prefer to look at a problem, break it in to its constituent parts, understand them and then select the best approach to reach my objective, my goal. (Note the use of a four letter word, goal, to aid in comprehension.)

Now if we can just decide on the purpose of school. Is it in this order of importance?


Learning to socialize

Sports as an extracurricular activity

A job for someone

How can one determine the true order of importance. As I said earlier, break the purpose of school down to its basic parts. Examine them, then decide on your course of action. Sometimes I wonder if each school board member has a list of specific items to improve education. Things like providing breakfast, lunch and meals on the weekends. Providing pencils, paper, notebooks, fill the bucket with stuff. I don’t know, maybe everything maybe nothing.

How about getting interesting stuff like 3D printers, building stuff from carbon fibers, writing code to create programs that can do something. New tech stuff that’s coming in the future. How things work. How about, and I said it before, the three year high school.

To all students, parents and teachers. The new school year begins. School is not a waste of time. It is necessary. It is where your brain trains, where it bulks up just like the jocks who train for sports. It is what you will make of it. Ask, NO DEMAND, a greater role and exposure of the academic side of school. News reports, awards, academic challenges. Brag a lot. Make sure we all know about your education. Make it news for the newspapers. Make your time valuable. The pursuit of excellence has it’s own reward. Do us all proud.

Andrew Alberti Jr