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How School Training Will Be of Value to Me in the Future

Robin H. D. Zimmermann

Every other week, you hear of studies proving that education reduces crime, improves productivity, and leads to better jobs. But these statistics, valid as they are, do not express what school means to me. It means discipline. It means experience. It means camaraderie. But most of all, it means learning.

Sometimes in music, you hear an striking progression, and you ask, “What is that? Why does that chord, that consonance or dissonance, stand out so strongly?” In my music theory classes, I am learning how to explain this thing, this emphasis that appears. In eartraining class, I am learning how to identify these things just listening. It’s great.

Probably you have had a toy top at some time. You spin it, and it whirls, pirouetting on a single point, until it slows and falls. How does it do that? Why doesn’t it just fall? Why, when it is going slowly, does it’s axis move slowly around in a widening circle, although it still spins? In physics, you find how this motion, this gyroscopic motion, follows from the three laws that Newton deduced and described hundreds of years ago, and also how the planets move in their orbits, how electricity and electronics work, how your TV can grab those electromagnetic waves out of the air and aim millions of electrons at exact points on your phosphorescent screen to bring you the weather, which immensely complex computers and programs predict back at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency headquarters.

Linked with physics is mathematics, the most ancient of the sciences. Numbers and functions of numbers lead to differentiation, where you learn how a function behaves at one number by edging a little each way and seeing how it changes. Then there is integration, which lets you add up how much area is under a function, even if it some odd thing that does not yield to simple geometrical argument. You can turn complex problems into vectors or matrices, you can break secret codes, you can list the odds against your favorite team in the contest next week.

You read, and you find out all sorts of amazing things. An important writer on semantics, S. I. Hayakawa, once said, “They say you only have one life to live. But if you can read, you can live as many lives as you like.” You can read “The Red Badge of Courage”, and fight the Civil War again. You can read “Three Men in a Boat”, and row up the Thames. You can learn about the New Deal, about the Second World War, about baseball, about life, in books.

School is amazing, and I have barely started. I can’t wait.