A few months ago, when a doctor talked at a brief career counselling session in a school with class 10 students, she was stumped by a question raised by one of the teenagers. “Why do I have to study MBBS? I want to be a skin specialist, so why should I waste my time studying the basic degree?” The question becomes the epitome of the list that a few teachers have been facing for many years now. “Why do we need to learn theories formulated by foreigners, when our field is a creative one?”

Some teachers may find solace in the standard answer – “We are going according to the syllabus,” while others struggle a little to let the young, agile and distracted minds dwell on the idea that theory is the basis for moving forward, a point at which we start, and is necessary to build a foundation to take anything forward.

Many teachers admit that they are at a loss when they have to explain the virtues of studying theories to students, since our teenagers belong to the ‘jet age’, which is clearly reflected in the question that the 15-year-old asked the doctor (mentioned above). As such, students are also not wrong, since for them, an education is a means to a career.

Today, we present the question to two representatives of young students, and here’s what they think:

“The applications need to be based on theoretical learning.”

Just as in physics or chemistry, where we study the origin of the concept of the atom, which is the basic particle for the structure of anything and everything we know, I feel that in the humanities or the liberal arts, studying theory is vital.

Everything we know or do is based on some theory, and I think that if we know the basis and the outcome of that theory, students will be able to cross all boundaries to do well in their field. Even if in modern times many professionals go along with what is needed, the solid knowledge base will set the good ones apart.

Why just talk of the humanities or liberal arts? Even in economics and finance we need to study theories. So that moving forward we can lay our solutions and conclusions to problems based on the theories.

For instance, in mass communication, it is useful to study the theory than merely look at the effects of a particular action. When you already know what kind of response you want from the audience, you will provide the stimulus accordingly. But this is possible only if you know the basic tenets of the stimulus-response theory.

Refusing to learn theory just reminds of the boy in the movie The Karate Kid, when he wants to learn the form of martial art in China. All the coach makes him do for a few weeks is take his coat from a hook and drop it, and then pick it up and hang it. Continuously. Seems useless, but it formed the basis of a very important move!

-Setu Shah, Mass media student

“There is no point. Theories make no sense at all.”

 Are you kidding? Why is there a need of learning anything, especially in advertising, when I want to be a creative writer some day? I just want to go on to write tag lines and funny one-liners and for that I really do not need any theory.

It becomes boring, especially when teachers start with theories from centuries ago. We can’t even imagine that time. Why do we need to know the origin of classical dance or music? How is that related to my profession?

I remember in one lecture, a teacher was talking about the time when cell phones did not exist. She mentioned it was not too long ago, about 15 or 20 years ago, reminding each student of the actual dial telephone. In excruciating detail she explained to us the concept of booking a trunk call to other cities through the operator, and the different options of ordinary, urgent and lightning calls, and the exorbitant rates that were charged for these calls. She explained that this became the basis for STD calling.

Even if it was an interesting story, I am wondering why we were subjected to such a discussion for half an hour? Why do we need to imagine, or go back to a time when we were hardly two or three years old? Do we need that? We have evolved to a much better position today, where we can dial a call to any part of the world with one click. We are talking of the Mars mission. And yet, we can’t help looking so far behind.

 -Trisha Mehta,  Advertising student

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