Another repost from my Quora answers, this time some info for anyone looking to move into programming.
How much of what we learn in school helps us in real life?
The stuff school teaches you - literature, mathematics, art, history, science, and so on - are intended to give you a broad enough base from which you can freely choose the direction you want to go in life. This means that as you specialize, many of these subjects may become “irrelevant” to you, but having this broad base of knowledge gives you a better foundation in life. Knowledge from unrelated fields can often give useful insight to your own specialized field.
That being said, the most useful stuff you learn from school isn’t the stuff that’s in the lectures or in the textbooks. The most important things you learn from school are in the methods of learning and working well with others. School teaches how to apply yourself, how to study and pick up new material, how to listen to other people, how to determine which knowledge is useful to learn, how to discern truth from fiction, how to work within a set of rules, how to manage your time, how to deal with schedules and deadlines, how to work well with other people, how to deal with difficult people, and so on. In short, the most important lesson school teaches you is how to deal with the real world.
Edit: Not directly related, but reposting the above made me think of this quote from Dead Poets Society.