I feel your pain, 30 years ago I had to learn all that stuff and it didn't seem very relevant then. I don't think I have ever needed to write a sort in the years since and if I did I would just Google the algorithm I needed.
I guess the idea is the same as learning various formulas in maths. I have never needed to know the area under a curve, but the basic techniques I learnt to do that have come in really useful.
I've always felt it would be more useful to cover database design and use. You are more likely to do performance tuning on a poorly designed db then any in memory sort.
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