I was talking the other day to a friend of mine who is an instructor in the Business Department at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home. She had a student who was taking Introduction to Computers on the recommendation of her adviser because she had no experience with them and she wants to be a nurse. When my friend got to the section on Excel, the student asked “Why do I have to learn this? I’m not going to need this in my job.” This was a tough question for the instructor to answer, since everyone at some point in their lives is going to have an Excel file to navigate through. How can a teacher be expected to motivate a student who has this attitude and make the class interesting and enjoyable for them?
I remembered an article I read when I was with the McComb School District where the same questions was addressed in K-12 education. Instead of the usual “because you’ll need it later on in life” or “because you’ll be tested on it” the author of the article gave a better way to answer this question. I loved this list of responses. Many of them were words I needed to hear when I was struggling through Spanish or Accounting at Mississippi College.
Here is the list of reasons why:
1. Because, simply put, it will make you a more educated person.
2. Because, just as simply, it will make you a less ignorant person.
3. Because it may keep you from being taken advantage of by someone more informed than yourself.
4. Because you can’t really decide whether or not you want to know something, or whether or not knowing it will be valuable, until after you’ve learned it.
5. Because the number of television quiz shows is growing exponentially, and one day, knowing this may help you win a grand prize. (I particularly appreciate this one since my friend Kim appeared on The Weakest Link…you just never know!)
6. Because it may help you see your world or your community in a way that you weren’t able to without knowing it.
7. Because it will give you something to think about.
8. Because what you’re learning may represent some of the best work by some of the greatest minds in human history.
9. Because it may give you the clues or the background to discover something yourself.
10. Because you have the freedom and the opportunity to learn it, while many people in the past, and many people today, have not.
11. Because you can learn it, and after you do, you will believe that you can.
12. Because, even though this may be difficult to learn, there are instructors who have dedicated their lives to helping people like you learn it.
Marcus Herzbert, who was an instructor at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, came up with that list, and I think it should be distributed to every teacher in America when they sign their contract to teach. I wish I had demanded more of myself when I was in college. I wish I had studied harder, made better grades, and taken advantage of the knowledge my professors had and were trying to share with me.
Maybe I should sign up for a Spanish class or an Accounting class at ASUMH. Not because it’s something I need to do my job everyday, but because even though it may be difficult for me to learn, there are awesome teachers who are at ASUMH to help me. Or, maybe it’s time for me to start working on that M.B.A.?