The “Real World”

Over the time it seems a phrase has manifested itself in the danish language: “Den Virkelige Verden” (“The Real World”). It is often used when talking about education; to signify the difference between academia and the non-academia – and especially in the discussion of whether the syllabus in the public education is relevant in the “real world” (non-academia) and thus whether public education pushes people towards academia.

Last time I stumbled upon the phrase was today in a sentence: “Grades are irrelevant in the real world”. I don’t object to the fact that life requires so much more than good grades, and good grades is not mandatory for doing your job well – but I am honestly getting tired of calling life outside academia for “the real world”. To me that devaluates a job in academia. Academia, is just as relevant as a job outside the university – but the value of our work is maybe only discovered years, decades or centuries later (especially true for mathematicians). Today, I’m writing this post on my computer, something that is only possible because researchers took their time to develop the silicon inside it. Because researchers played around with computers looong before they were relevant for the public and loooong before they were even close to being as portable as today.

Please, do debate the syllabus in public school. Please, do debate whether we have down-prioritised non-universiy degrees, but please: Stop calling it the “Real World” vs “Academia”….

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