“Why are we learning this?”

A TOK student brought this video in last week, enriching the class dialog about the value, purposes and limitations of school.

The video provoked some reflection on one principle that creates relevance, meaning and sustenance to the work of teaching and learning.

The video laments, among lots of other things, that “I wasn’t taught how to pay tax…” “… how to vote…” “I was not taught the laws for the country I live in.”

But the video ends with some statements one of which is

Screen capture of video (c)Boyinaband on Youtube.
Screen capture of video (c)Boyinaband on Youtube.

One of the threads that runs through the video is how worthless some of the topics seem to Boyinaband. Memorization on Mitochondria vs Learning about Health, for instance. Had Boyinaband and the legions of students who share his stance learned the conceptual connections between health and discrete cellular function, would the conceptual understanding that discrete cellular functions contribute to health of systems in organisms including the human being made the learning more relevant and meaningful, and useful? He might also learn that topics are useful, in illustrating and illuminating concepts, allowing for breadth and depth of understanding.

Taxes, voting and citizenship, and laws are micro-concepts of local, national, international and global issues. Had these been integrated in the study of social sciences, mathematics and other productive relationships between disciplines, would the student have found learning more relevant, meaningful and useful?

Creating contexts, which frame topics through concepts and authentic connections to the world and allow students to discover the significance of why we learn what we learn, is something that an IB education would have gifted Boyinaband and the learner he represents.

And what if Boyinaband had opportunities to transfer skills across and within disciplines, allowing him to learn that the ways of knowing in social sciences through the concepts of systems and change directly impacted the ways he understood systems and change in the natural sciences?

I wish we could have had someone like Boyinaband in a holistic, contextual, conceptual, integrated school framework (something like the MYP, which is research-based and follows a continuum of flexible education that is accepted globally and is known to prepare students well for problem-solving in a changing world).

Oh, wait. We do.

If I met Boyinaband as a student, I might say to him, “You are upset with school because what you learned through your schooling seems meaningless and useless to how you need to problem-solve in the world outside school.

“And what you want, is to believe that the school experience includes answers to the question, Why are we learning this?”

And if I met his parents in that faraway past when they are deciding about his education, I might take time to explore with them the following notions.

And I would say to the parents, here is an open secret. I know 4,267 schools worldwide that can answer these questions.



Author: alavina

Cognitive Coach and author. I simplify personal power so you can use mental resources and find pathways to your goals, be more productive and feel in control every day.

5 thoughts

  1. Dear Aloha

    I was delighted when I saw this post. I have been missing these all these days!
    I did get to know that you have moved to the US and thought perhaps you were in the process of settling down.

    Thanks so much for this post. This one, like all the others, is very thought-provoking.

    Warm regards,
    Mayura Tiwari
    Form tutor 6A
    Grade level coordinator – Grade 6
    English teacher – MYP, IGCSE
    Off Expressway, Sector 100, Noida – 201301, India | T: +91 120 4617000 |

    This email is for the designated recipient only and may contain confidential, proprietary and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender and destroy all copies of the original message.
    Visit us at http://www.pathways.in
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    1. Dear Mayura! I hope you and our colleagues at PWSN are well. I have moved to Zagreb, Croatia. As we had discussed before, second to being an IB student is the experience of being an IB teacher. 🙂 Always learning.
      All the best,

  2. Thanks so much for this post. I would like to share this video however even though it raises a very important question it offers no depth in answer. But I can now share it in the context of your comments which take this conversation about what is worth knowing to a much deeper level. I would appreciate it if you wrote more about this because you hint at some very interesting and important ideas. Thanks. Philip.

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