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Chemistry: Most Practical High School Subject

Of all the high school subjects, high school chemistry is the most useful for all students after they leave high school.

Obviously, having a little understanding of the chemical world is a good thing. A basic knowledge of chemicals, concentrations, pressures, acids, bases, and reactions helps truck drivers, cooks, janitors, and miners handle chemicals more efficiently and safely. A more chemically conscious public can make better public decisions regarding chemicals in our society.

Chemistry also teaches students a lot of other important workplace skills.

For instance, the procedures to name chemical compounds requires the students to learn new vocabulary and grammar — and apply this new language into a set of established rules and principles. Many occupations — such as bank clerks, office administrators, government workers, and trades people — undergo similar training to master the vocabulary and grammar of their jobs. Learning to name chemical compounds gives future workers a greater ability to learn their future workplace languages.

The periodic table, which probably has at least 1000 pieces of information, teaches students how to work efficiently with organized information. Future workers learn how to look for information in a timely manner. And working with the periodic table often means a lot of the information does eventually get memorized, thus proving and enhancing memory skills — and workplace efficiency.

The balancing of chemical equations has important lessons for bookkeeping and inventory control. Limiting reactants teaches students to look for workplace restrictions and bottlenecks. Heat transfer shows students how gains and losses are related to each other. Molecular shapes develop skills for understanding spatial relationships. Chemical equilibrium shows that absolutism — to one extreme or the other — is often not possible. Each lesson in chemistry has a non-chemical lesson for life and the workplace.

There’s also a lot of English language training behind chemistry. Students have to decode the wording of various chemistry problems to determine what problem solving techniques are needed and how to set up those problems. The specific choice and order of a few words can drastically change the nature of the chemistry problem — and the student must notice and master the language subtleties to solve the problem in the right way.

The math of high school chemistry is not at a high level, but it reinforces when to properly apply the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Chemistry also better develops the students’ sense of proportions and units of measurement. Students who finish high school chemistry have proven their basic and practical math skills for the workplace far better than through their regular high school math courses.

High school chemistry increases the imagination and creativity of future workers as it forces them to think about concepts that are obviously beyond the normal senses. And like most other high school courses, chemistry teaches students to break big problems into smaller problems, solve the smaller problems before solving the big problem — while paying attention to all those details to get everything right in this critical thinking process. Wouldn’t most workplaces prefer more of these skills in their employees?

It’s too bad that high school chemistry is mostly looked at as a means to gain entrance into a college or university. We should regard any student who finishes high school chemistry with a mediocre grade as having more workplace abilities than a student who did not try this subject at all.

Published on 2012

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