Think back to high school. Yep, all the way back. Search through those suppressed memories and consider for a moment just how much you really learned. All those worksheets in chemistry and biology, the long hours spent searching for “x”, the five paragraph essays on a book you may or may not have read. How much did you actually learn?
A lot of what we learn in high school we forget or dismiss as useless facts. That equation may have saved you on the test, but you probably are not using it in your life today. I know I definitely do no use the algebra from freshman year. The composition of a plant cell just does not come up in conversation with my friends. So while I may have learned it way back in the day and maybe even aced the course, I don’t know it now.
As teachers, it is not our job to make sure our students remember facts for years on end, especially if they are facts they themselves are not particularly interested in. Teachers are not machines that are programmed to spit out random questions and answers. We are here to help create well-rounded individuals who can function successfully in society. Our world functions on the collective knowledge of math, science, language, and the liberal arts. Being at least familiar with all of these helps to create an individual who can function in almost any given situation. Teachers, the front line of defense against ignorance, are responsible for helping to create this individual.
I may not remember what molecule creates wood or what color certain chemicals may burn, but I understand the concepts. It is the concepts that allow me to communicate at my fullest potential. So while it may be just another fact that I used to know, it has helped transform me into a functioning member of society.