“Is learning science relevant to my life?”

Dear student,

Today in the chemistry lab, you asked me a question that every teacher dreads facing the most: “How is this relevant to my life?” I thought it was an excellent question but did not have an appropriate answer that could convince you. After all, why is knowing the use of phenolphthalein indicator in an acid-base titration any important to your life? As a student myself, I completely understand how you feel and have also wondered about the ‘big purpose of it all’ many times.

First, I told you how this particular concept could help you in the higher-level chemistry courses you may take in the future. You said that you were merely fulfilling a credit requirement and had no intention of taking any other chemistry course ever. This is why I am motivated to write to you today. Not to make you sign up for all the science classes, but to make you understand how any of this may add to your growth as a student, and most importantly, as a learner.

The way I see it, nothing we learn in our lives ever goes waste. The key is to stop looking for specific answers for every question and to start enjoying the learning process! To be blunt and brutally honest, no, not everything we learn is applicable to the modern world that we live in today. As you mentioned in our conversation, we can look up almost everything on the internet within seconds. What’s the point of memorising the elements in a periodic table or remembering their atomic masses? With the increasing use of technology and its easy accessibility, our brain cells are on their way to a vacation forever. This does not mean we should become robots for the rest of the years at school. What I am saying is that we need to be able to connect the dots and ask the right questions in order to make sense of everything. The point of science is to have practical approach towards things and cultivate critical thinking in everyday life.

Let me give you an example. Today you said, “What I learnt was simply to turn some solution pink and that’s it.” Well, I wanted you to ask, “Why did the acid turn pink in the presence of base and indicator? What happened to the molecules in the solution? Why didn’t this reaction work with other indicators?” You see, the point is not to know the answer to all these questions, but to simply ask these questions in the first place.

Learning science gives us a new perspective into the world we live in. Learning science may not directly affect our day-to-day activities, but it influences the way we approach and handle different situations. Science clears the emotional sensitive cloud that surrounds the vulnerable human mind and makes room for rational thinking. It is said that as humans grow older, we lose the will to learn new things and maintain a curious mind. Learning science ensures that a part of us never ceases to be a child ever again.

I hope this made sense to you and encouraged you to open up to learning science, even if that includes learning how to balance chemical equations.

Priya.

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