While many teachers may hear the dreaded “When I am ever going to use this in the real world?” question and furrow their brow, I hear it as a teachable moment and an opportunity to explore the real-world application of our core concepts.

With the world rapidly changing though, it can be tough to keep your real-world examples modern. The next time you hear this question, consider using these cross-curriculum examples to help get the conversation going!

When will I use math in the real world?

Every time you go to the grocery store, you are using mathematical concepts! From addition, to multiplication, and even percentages, the grocery store is like a math classroom come to life. This fact is true even as the global food supply chain crumbles. The next time you walk through the aisles of Trader Joe’s and wonder whether the shelves are empty because another pandemic killed the low-wage workers at the frontlines, or because farmers are facing severe water shortages due to climate change, try to estimate your total before you get the register, where your card will be declined because your whole office was laid off to provide more wealth to shareholders.

When will I use rhetoric and composition in the real world?

Rhetoric has it all: Ethos, pathos, and logos! When your elected officials begin to be replaced with fear-mongering conspiracy theorists who believe in using violence to retain power, rhetorical analysis will come in handy! You’ll be able to write an inspiring strongly-worded Facebook post critiquing their propaganda, a post which will be used as evidence against you when the loyalty trials begin.

When will I use world history in the real world?

As nations continue to fracture across the globe, and a dwindling animal-based food supply causes trade wars to escalate into thermonuclear armageddon that makes the “Book of Revelations” look like The Boxcar Children, you’ll be able to smugly explain to your friends that we, as humans, continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. You’ll get cool points for knowing your stuff even as the world burns to the ground.

When will I use French in the real world?

After the power grid is captured in a state-sponsored cyberattack, and the country is plunged into darkness, without heat or refrigeration, there will be nothing here but an apocalyptic wasteland of dilapidated Burger Kings and old golf courses. You’re going to want to have options when forced to become a refugee. Why not France? Or Quebec?

When will I use literature in the real world?

When you are kidnapped and imprisoned without due process for your lack of patriotism by your fascist government’s unofficial militia, you may find comfort in what Yale’s Robert Louis Jackson described as Dostoyevsky’s portrayal of prison as “the hell of suffering to spiritual salvation.” You might think about Raskolnikov in the epilogue of Crime and Punishment and smile to yourself for the first time in years.

When will I use physical education in the real world?

No, you’re not likely to play kickball outside of PE, but that doesn’t mean the skills won’t transfer to your new life being exploited by the ruling class. Knowing how to kick hard and run is essential to your success foraging for food in the garbage dump that was your hometown, and if you show enough athleticism, you just might find yourself the star of whatever televised death match the oligarchs think up. As our nation becomes increasingly obsessed with legal sports betting and increasingly less obsessed with basic human rights, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll find yourself in a coliseum, impaling your neighbors for a chance to win a trip to the dentist. Running the mile might seem like a big deal now, but when it’s you versus a guy named Sven and your own pulse on the line, you’re going to want to be in top shape.

When will I use engineering in the real world?

Two words: Nuclear bunker.

When will I use science in the real world?

Global pandemics do not occur in a vacuum. For a thing like the coronavirus to spread to as it did, quite a few people, government leadership included, had to ignore the principles of basic science for a very long time. Consider how empowering it might feel in the future to understand the importance of simple pieces of medical advice like washing your hands, avoiding someone who is sick, and covering your mouth when you cough. While a general respect for science may not save your life, it can help to prolong things. And there’s always something to be said for being on the right side of history.

When will I use biology in the real world?

In the best-case scenario for the human race, some members of our species evolve into something that can survive climate disaster. In the transitional period, you’ll want to know how to best choose your mate from the various mutations that spring up after the drug companies contaminated the water supply. Love is in the air! Just try not to breathe it in too deeply.

When will I use psychology in the real world?

Trust me, you’ll need this one because you’re going to see some shit.

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