During your time in high school, you’ll learn a whole bunch of facts. For example, there’s Newton’s Second Law of Motion, when and where the Edict of Worms was decreed (HINT: it was in Worms!), and when to use an Oxford comma. Looking back on my years in high school and college, one thing stands out to me about the lessons I really remember. I would recommend that in every aspect of what it is you want to learn, you ask yourself the most important of the five W’s: WHY?

Now, having knowledge of the year that the Edict of Worms was decreed will certainly come in handy when you finally land a spot on Jeopardy! But until then, it’s much more important to understand why something like the Edict of Worms came about in the first place. What does it tell you about the people of the time, what the prevailing philosophy was in the culture, and what a threat the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire thought Martin Luther’s ideas to be? In this instance, asking the question WHY? gives us insight into the heart of man, and what it takes to stand in opposition to the culture of the world. This kind of knowledge prepares you for living on your own in today’s world, because interestingly enough, the heart of man hasn’t changed much since the year 1521. (Boom! Call me, Trebek!)

The philosophy of asking WHY? certainly makes a lot of sense in subjects like History or Psychology, but pertains to many other subjects as well. Find a reason to make the material matter to you. As for me, I found that knowing why I needed to learn Matrix Theory and eigenvectors made it a lot easier for me to understand. Why is it important for you to understand chemistry? Or calculus? Why does something work the way it does?  Use that question to spark your curiosity. The answers are quite often fascinating, and will provide you with an understanding of the subject that lasts a lifetime.

If you can discover why a subject matters to you, it makes it much easier to keep yourself motivated to truly learn it. Self-motivation is an important skill to hone during your high school years, because once you make the move to college and beyond, you’ll have much more flexibility to make decisions for yourself. Only you will be able to make the right choices about when to study and when to watch SpongeBob. (I recommend a ratio of 3:1.)  And just like my Uncle Ben always said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Wait. That was Spiderman’s uncle. It’s still good advice. You’ll be responsible for making the choices that all add up to who it is you become, which is an important job to have!

So ask the question WHY? as often as you think of it, and figure out what it is that makes things tick. Most importantly, I hope that every student at CCS grows in their knowledge of why we are here on this earth; that we should use our time here to glorify God and be a light unto the world in whatever it is we do. I hope that your years at CCS would see each of you grow in your relationship with Christ, so that when you go off to college and the “real world” beyond that, you would stand out as a person of integrity and compassion. And when the world asks you what it is that makes you so different, you’ll have the opportunity to tell them WHY.

Photo by Can Dickerson