“When are we ever going to use this?” What a great question! This is a teachable moment. Too bad most teachers blow it. Instead of seizing the opportunity, they reprimand the student for asking. At least that was my experience.
Why would someone not explain how their subject is used? Often because they don’t know. Or they don’t know how to articulate what they do know. But teachers are supposed to know things and be good at articulating them. That’s their job.
Sometimes the student asking how a subject is going to be used is just a lazy whiner. He’s not asking a sincere question, and he will not find a sincere answer satisfying. But maybe the student is genuinely curious. Or maybe there’s at least a drop of curiosity in the whiner. Or maybe someone else sincerely has the question that the whiner insincerely asked.
I am not saying that content needs to be more practical. Attempts at being more “practical” have often been shortsighted. Many subjects that have been discarded as impractical are actually quite practical. We’ve just grown impatient, unwilling to wait for long-term benefits. I’m saying that more teachers should know and articulate the value of what they’re teaching.
It’s more difficult to convey the value of things that are not immediately useful, but it’s also more important.