Given that there’s no philosophical rationale for compulsory education, what do I tell my students when they ask the standard question, “why do we have to learn this?”
Well students, there’s two sides to this issue. Side one. I believe in the value of knowing. I think that there is little better you could be doing with your time than bettering your ability to reason, understand, and pursue truth.
Why care about math? Well Jesus, math is one of the most exciting things in the universe! It has both saved and nearly destroyed the world on various occasions. It has an undying beauty and fascination that is only equaled by nature, great works of art, and human love. It’s literally everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. You cannot name anything at all that does not have an exquisite mathematical structure.
Math is the pure, undying truth that suffuses every cell of your body, keeps every cloud hanging in the sky, and makes the stars turn across the heavens at night. Maybe that doesn’t interest you. Fine; I can’t tell you what to be interested in. But I am your teacher, and it’s my job to give you challenges from time to time. So here’s a challenge: dare to know. You will not be graded on this one.
That’s one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is this. You were forced to be here, and I don’t believe that you should have been. If I had my way, you would only be listening to me because you decided that you wanted to hear what I had to say, and for no other reason.
I don’t have my way. The system has decided that you are required to learn math. It sucks. I know, I did it for sixteen years. There’s no good reason it is that way. There’s no logical rationale. You can’t change it. I can’t change it. Here we are, let’s try to make it fun.