READ THIS if You Don’t Remember Calculus

But for real, let’s evaluate the importance of remembering how to take derivatives. Everyone who has forgotten calc is saying “YEAH! What she said!! I never use that stuff!” And then there are the math teachers. Sorry.

Modern education is defined by its obsession with the memorization of facts, rather than with the learning of concepts. Idealists will tell you that high schools and universities are changing; that focus has already been shifted off vocabulary words and mathematical proofs. These people have also lived outside of the education system for many years. As a student, I am here to tell you: most college kids are bombarded with lists of data, and are taught that only measurable outcomes matter. If you can regurgitate the professors’ words at the end of the semester, you receive a passing grade. If you retain the material and understand the larger concepts at work, well, you receive no incentive to do that so…

This phenomenon is especially present in science/math/health fields. There is so much “relevant” and “important” material to cover that everything is rushed. At the end of the day, most of that information is lost to new statistics or Saturday nights.

The standing joke at the homeless shelter I spend time at is the [true] story of hundreds of students volunteering in the kitchen, each taking their turn at cutting up the inevitably large piles of beef, potatoes, and onions that get donated. The only students who cut themselves accidentally? New volunteers shout out their guesses — “Boston University!?” – “Suffolk kids!” – “Northeastern students?” The correct answer is: MIT. Obviously MIT students are talented, but they lack certain skills in favor of having enough knowledge to pass the Calc Three exam. These are the same students I’ve heard ask homeless people what the nutritional value of their food is. Are we missing the bigger picture?

Converting a story to bullet points printed on a power-point  is not the same as telling a anecdote verbally. Details are lost, and without details, what is a story? The hard facts of life, written on paper, provide no opening for imagination, innovation, or learning. I am lucky to have my current semester be repleted with books; memoirs of people in different countries, different times, and different tragedies. The long-lasting understanding of others that I can gain from these books is arguably more valuable than temporarily storing formulas which I will replace with new ones by the end of the week. Math and science are vital, don’t get me wrong. But doctors work directly with other people so shouldn’t more importance be placed on human-to-human contact and understanding, just like it is in counseling psychology classes?

Satya is the yogi-word for “commitment to truth.” Say things that are valuable, and nothing else. Speak with the intention of truth. This means we must commit to learning true, valuable things so we can share exactly those things. Are liberal arts fields the only ones that can afford to explore “truth” and “values?” If so, we are creating a dichotomy – separating math or science from value threatens the co-existence of the general population and those with an M.D. title. My degree in “Human Services” will mean so much more (or, equally as possible, less) than my friends’ “Chemical Engineering” or “Health Sciences.”

If you’re interested in values vs. the medical world, check out the book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Ann Fadiman (warning: despite insightful content, grammar errors abound).

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