On a recent trip, I was reminded of how much I liked high school calculus. Although not a body of information I'd ever use, I found calculus, and geometry too, to be fun. The classes presented puzzles and the puzzles were very intriguing; I did not want to stop until I got them solved. Over the years, I have always considered my strong interest in these classes to be an aberration.
Until my last flight on Southwestern.
I'm writing in reference to Jodi Picoult's note to her 16-year-old self ["Note to Self," December 2011]: "Calculus. Trust me. You will never use it." That would be horrible advice to a 16-year-old. ... Although I suspect Ms. Picoult was trying to be amusing in her one-liner, she is adding to the perception that a successful person, such as herself, thinks higher math is a waste of time. Many people find the study of math rewarding for its elegance and its insight into the creativity humans are capable of.
Maybe that's why I liked those math classes? I doubt if my teenage self could have articulated the draw in those words, but perhaps at some level the value was calling.
I read more in the sidebar to the letter. Excerpt:
[H]ow does [Picoult] know she doesn't use calculus? All those lovely synapses formed during math class may unconsciously help Jodi formulate the plots in her best-selling novels. That's the difference between training and education, isn't it? Training teaches us specific skills: education teaches us to think.
Reminds me of the debate about the role of law school and what a student should acquire in those years. Training? Education?
Is calculus a waste of time if you are not going to use it in later years? Is anything taught in law school of no use? Does some things taught in law school form "lovely synapses" even if they do not seem immediately practical?
What do you think?
And if you want to read the whole letter Picoult wrote to herself, here it is: "‘Dear Me’: Jodi Picoult Writes a Letter to Her Younger Self" (Wall Street Journal).