This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward
As the years come and go, my days in high school stretch farther and farther away making me feel like I am starting to get a handle on the experience as a whole. However, as I carelessly scroll through my Facebook feed, I often see a post shared by dozens of friends lambasting the state of the education system and the focus on academics disciplines they feel have done them little good in their adult lives.
The meme which is both the most frequently shared and most irritatingly short sighted would be the one which reads, “In high school I never learned how to do taxes, change a tire, pay bills, get a loan or understand interest rates. However, mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.” As someone who chose to study why mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell in college, I feel it importunate that I should enlighten the all too quick to share Facebook generation as to why science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education made me a successful and productive adult.
Many of you have had at least one bill or statement come to your mailbox. The concept of you contracting a service or good in which you agree to provide monies is not a foreign concept, even to a teenager. This concept, although simple, is related to the meaner and more aggressive bill, taxes. Taxes confuse even those with degrees in accounting and business. There are even attorneys dedicating their careers to understanding and applying tax law. Truly, I was not taught how to prepare, file or receive tax information as a high school student, however, let me illustrate exactly why high school prepared me to handle the task.
Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, that means that chemicals enter the cell and into the mitochondria organelle becomes converted into different chemical compounds such as the all important power provider adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides a crucial chemical reaction in which power is provided to various parts of cells requiring movement. Without ATP, there would be no life.
This basic principle of biology was not easily mastered, yes it is indeed the powerhouse of the cell, the lesson which is important is “why.” The question of “why” started me down a path requiring greater processes of thought where I learned to think critically about problems I simply had never encountered before. By becoming a critical thinker, I was empowered as an adult to accomplish tasks without having been told how to do so, something invaluable to both employers and entrepreneurs alike.
Understanding basic science and mathematical principles enabled me to approach unknown territories and conquer them using logic and sound mental processing which I may not have had without understanding that mitochondria was the powerhouse of the cell. The system of secondary education isn’t to make every student a doctor, lawyer, mathematician or engineer, it’s to create critical thinkers who will leave high school with the ability to solve problems rationally and with proper logic. So before you look at another math problem, whether your own or your children’s and obtusely spout off, “I’m (you’re) never going to use this,” remember it’s not the problem that’s important, it’s how you reach the solution that carries on in all its implications/applications.