A few days ago a came upon some Jewish girls who were discussing the Gemara. To clarify, they weren't talking about something within the Gemara but about how girls aren't "supposed" to study it. It's a huge deal in the darker realms of Orthodoxy that women should not learn Gemara and the Bais Yakovs drill that into the girl's heads that there is even something _wrong_ in women learning Gemara. That a woman learning Gemara is just a silly feminist urge to feel as good as men. This idea is further entrenched as a girl who learn's Gemara probably won't get a good shidduch. To think a man should support a wife in kollel...!
Ok fine, whatever. Obviously I disagree, I think Jewish girls should learn Gemara if they are so inclined. It is as much their heritage as it is the men's. Though I don't support studying Talmud to the exclusion of all else. The kollel drain is a problem too, but that's an entirely different topic...
Anyway, what struck me as terrible was what one girl said about it, "Why would you learn Gemara if you didn't have to?" She was referring to the belief that learning Gemara is a mandated obligation that Jewish men have to perform, but which Jewish women do not. But I thought that was a terrible approach to learning and is what is wrong with so much of the world today.
Why study anything if you don't have to?
It's of the same theme as those who say that subjects like geometry is "useless." No, it may not have any direct bearing in functionality in life, but it adds to your way of thinking, your culture, and frankly, knowledge is meaningful for its own sake. I really can imagine little else of more value than knowledge and wisdom.
Of course one can go through their entire life without ever knowing who Kant was or how the Persians formed their empire or what standard temperature and pressure is, but what a shallow superficial life such people must lead. This type of thinking is what leads to the vacuous nature of popular culture and unending commercialism and materialism.
Gemara is worth learning.