It Could Come In Handy Some Day

curmudgeonI came across a blog article the other day that really brought out the old curmudgeon in me: 7 Things I Learned In School That Were Completely Pointless. I think it struck a chord with me because there was a time I would have wrote an article very much like this. Raising children, owning a house, living on a single-income, and fourteen years of programming web sites have taught me a few things. All of that boils down to two life lessons:

  • Computers use more time than they save.
  • Ignorance costs money

I also love a good debate and thought it’s time to fight blog with blog. So I offer my rebuttal to “7 Things I Learned In School That Were Completely Pointless”:

1. Cursive [handwriting]
Right off the bat I’m agreeing 100% with this argument. It is silly to maintain a writing hack which was invented to overcome the limitations of Dip Pen technology. While cursive continues to die a slow and painful death, there is another dying form of writing that needs to be revisited: Shorthand. Imagine how much easier texting on your phone would be if the QWERTY keyboard were replaced with a Stenotype layout.

2. Long Division
I agree, the argument of “you won’t always have a calculator” is complete bullshit. Calculators are everywhere. The real argument here is that, for day-to-day math, calculators are SLOW. When I’m at the supermarket and see a 10oz bag of Potato chips on sale, 3 for $5; by the time I take my phone out of my pocket, launch the calculator app and type in the numbers, I’ve already figured out in my head that the 24oz bulk bag of generic chips for $2.99 is 25% cheaper.

3. Physics
Understanding physics is as important as understanding any scientific field. Otherwise you risk falling prey to all the bullshit pseudo-science out there like creationism, homeopathy and climatology.

4. How To Use A Compass and Protractor
You got me here. I can’t think of a single general purpose use of this skill. But they have been essential during the five years I spent programming mapping software for the US Army. So radial geometry and trigonometry are just part of my regular vocabulary. You never know, you may one day find yourself lost on the ocean and thank the gods you can crunch the haversine formula by hand.

5. How To Use A Library Card Catalog
Without the card catalog, there’s no point in having a library. Sure, the physical cards are gone but the look up system is still the same. As a student I worked as a programmer for the university library. It gave me a real appreciation for the organizational principals that go into library science. In fact, the computer is completely useless if you’re searching in generalities. Go ahead, try and use that computer terminal to find you the perfect book to read this weekend. I’ll be over here in 818.54.

6. Formatting A Floppy Disc [sic]
Formatting a floppy disk is no different than formatting a thumbdrive (yes, I know, formatting solid state is technically different), or a hard drive for that matter. It’s also something every computer user should know how to do. Reformatting and reinstalling is brain dead easy and something the Geek Squad charges $250 to do. Basic computer maintenance is like basic car maintenance: trivial to do, expensive as hell if you don’t know how.

7. Dissecting A Fetal Pig
Dissecting any animal is an essential skill if you plan on eating it. There is nothing better than a fresh chicken that you roast yourself ( and no, those scrawny 2lb rotisserie chickens they sell in the supermarket for an obscene $5 don’t count). Carving that chicken properly is an entire lesson in anatomy. This holds true for any fresh food, plants included. Unless you vegans out there enjoy your pumpkin pie with extra pulp.

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