This is a cholesterol molecule. At some point in my medical school biochemistry class, we were assigned to memorize the four-stage process by which cholesterol is synthesized in the cells.
I had already memorized the Krebs cycle, mitochondrial ATP synthesis, the 206 bones in the adult body (and the 270 bones in the newborn that fuse down to the 206 in the adult), and the fascinating [ahem] pathway that sodium travels in the kidney. I had two days before the exam, and it wasn’t going to happen. I decided not to memorize the cholesterol production pathway and prepared to take my hit on the exam. I still got an A on the test.
But guess what my first pediatric rotation was? Pediatric Endocrinology. And guess what all our hormones are made out of? You got it: cholesterol. We students rotated with a different professor each day, and every single one of them quizzed us on the cholesterol pathway. The pathway showed up on my board exam. Twice. However, I have never used the four steps of cholesterol synthesis in my eighteen years of clinical practice, and I stand by my decision not to memorize it.
Educating my children, I find the what-to-learn decisions fraught with peril. This or that? Every Yes is a No to something else. We can’t possibly learn it all. There is just no way. And I believe in the adage that we learn what we use. My littles all have to learn their addition facts and how to read. We all have to be able to write a good paragraph. But as time goes on, our interests develop and change. I can see what the boys are excited about by what they reserve at the library, and the girls show me with what they build, crochet and draw. I am trying to make space in their assignments to dig deeper into those ideas and interests.
Most of what they chose to learn isn’t going to show up on any standardized test, but it’s going to shape their future. So I say Yes to Norse mythology and Java and knitting and bears. (And I say No to cholesterol synthesis.)
What are you saying Yes to these days?