Why do I have to learn this if I'm not going to be using it ever again?
School teaches you how to stand on the shoulders of giants. You can commit a small fraction of your life to learn what it took someone else their whole life to discover. With due respect, you can do Newton and Liebniz justice by spending the effort to learn calculus in one year, since it took them their entire lives to discover it. (Imagine if someone relegated your life's work to a "waste of time.") Frankly, anyone who thinks that they can learn, retain, and execute skills in silos strikes me as a bit arrogant.
All disciplines are built upon a foundation of knowledge, and creativity is no exception. You still must learn and practice your rule of thirds in photography, squash-and-stretch in animation, largos vs. prestos in music, mise en scènes in filmmaking, and temporality of poetry vs. prose in writing.
You must learn algebra to learn calculus to model differential equations, a tool in your arsenal that could predict the weather or burglaries. You must memorize the nerves of the cervical plexus, so you can understand how neck injuries sometimes manifests in fecal incontinence.
Furthermore, conventionally intelligent people are just those who know how to attribute relevance to many things they learn, which is a "why" question often answered by highly educated parents. One of the hallmarks of an intelligent individual is the ability alternate between thinking micro- and macrocosmically. Elon Musk illustrates what this could look like: By "taking the engine apart and putting it back together," he says, "you learn about wrenches and screwdrivers and all the tools that you need." As a result, "you understand the relevance."
Don't let the difficulty of the learning curve distract you from building a strong knowledge base.
But I can just Google what I need to know. Knowledge is all open-source now.
You can also Google how to create nonlinear dynamical models, how to analyze Noam Chomsky, or what year and why the Spanish Civil War took place. But have you done any of it? Would you actually do it?
If no one demanded you to push yourself intellectually, would you? Would you be going in the right direction with little personal and committed guidance?
Colleges are just greedy institutions that only put students in lifelong debt.
Yes, I agree that colleges should not be as expensive as they are (The Atlantic writes a great piece one of the reasons why this is here). But yes, there is a pay gap that exists between degree'd and non-degree'd folks. I also agree that we need to be more like Germany and New York de-stigmatize trade or vocational schools as viable and respected career paths post-high school.
But if you're attending college, think about it this way: you are paying for the knowledge of industry experts. Under fair conditions, your grades should correlate with the quality of advisory (the main product you're paying for) that you receive from your institution. My program director and professors are there to confer upon us students the lessons and mistakes they've made over a lifetime, so we don't have to make them and can thus push the field further. Think about it this way--some companies hire management consultants that can bill hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per hour. You're getting a pretty good deal without paying those exorbitant hourly rates.
Take a look at your tuition. Mine is $32k per year. If I'm in school for 30 calendar weeks per academic year (30 weeks x 5 days = 150 days), I am paying $213 per day, or $8.88 per hour of a 24-hour weekday, to be in school. Essentially I'm on a $4,267/month subscription plan for unfettered access to the school library, all of its research experts, counseling, caring advisers, powerful computer labs, sound rooms, gym, wellness resources, organization memberships, networking opportunities, and more. From this perspective, school is just like a longer-term, high-end accelerator program. If you want less perks, pay less for a school that doesn't come with all the bells and whistles.
However, for my conscientious objectors to paywalled access to knowledge and privilege, I do share my thoughts in a second part.