The most useless things you learned in school

Remember asking your teacher, “When am I ever going to use this?” as they tried to explain sign and cosine and other trigonometric functions to you in math class?

Yeah, it turns out you were never going to use that.

In fact, there are a great many things we get taught in school that are essentially useless – and some very practical topics that could improve and enrich our lives that don’t make the curriculum.

A recent study found that, on average, we use just 37 per cent of what we learned in high school in our daily lives.

The survey found that people would much prefer practical classes over traditional ones. For example, when asked whether it would be more beneficial to study tax preparation or calculus, 87 per cent chose learning to file their own taxes.

When asked if they would prefer to study algebra or household repairs, only 17 per cent would opt for algebra.

On the short-list of the most useless things we spent time learning in school are the Pythagoream Theorem, knowing the number value of pi, and the periodic table.

Worried about all of that useless information taking up valuable brain space – taking up badly needed room for more practical knowledge? Don’t be. The researchers found that the average educated person forgets about 40 per cent of what they have learned anyway.

Here the ten most useless things we learn in school

  • Pythagorean theorem (48%)
  • Knowing PI is 3.14 (40%)
  • Periodic table (40%)
  • The types of rocks (37%)
  • The difference between protons, neutrons, and electrons (37%)
  • Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell (35%)
  • Naming the presidents in order (35%) – (It was an American survey)
  • Osmosis (32%)
  • How to make paper snowflakes (30%) – (Author’s note: I have never successfully mastered this.)
  • Photosynthesis (30%)
  • Although, these are all completely subjective. If you’re going into a career of science and biomedicine, where you’re in a laboratory working on how serological pipettes are designed for precision and what you can see underneath a microscope, learning about how the mitochondria are the powerhouse of a cell is very important.

The ten skills people say they wished they had learned

  • Money management and budgeting (57%)
  • How to properly do taxes (44%)
  • How to manage emotional/mental wellbeing (42%)
  • Understanding credit and student loans (39%)
  • How to negotiate (39%)
  • Time management (35%)
  • Household repairs (34%)
  • How to make conversation/personal relationship skills (33%)
  • Car repair and maintenance (31%)
  • How to find a job (30%)

My short list of things I think everyone should learn

  • Basic coding
  • Digital communications skills: create and share documents and files, prepare a spreadsheet, shoot, edit, and post a short video
  • Food preparation and storage for healthy homemade meals
  • Public speaking – how to give an engaging talk
  • Critical thinking – The ability to take in information, analyze its veracity and provide a reasoned, articulated counter argument
  • Proper driving etiquette – for the love of god, please

How about you? What were the most useless things you learned in school – and what do you wish you had learned instead?

Read more about this study here.

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