The Death of the Student

I’m still waiting for some college to come up with a march protesting student ignorance.

Paul Larmer 
Mr. Larmer, the wait is over.

(Try not to take the next 3 paragraphs as me being prideful.  See them as part of the greater point.)
My World Literature class is a conversation.  That is to say, my World Lit. class is a conversation between myself and the teacher.  Perhaps this doesn’t make sense, let me explain:  In my class, my teacher points to a specific texts and asks for general thoughts.  Usually, I then make a point and then ask a question.  Following this, he asks me what I think the answer is.  Upon answering, my teacher will then guide my answer in light of the historical or orthodox view of scholasticism.  This is how I learn, and how (generally) we should all learn.  We are a people of discovery, a population of scientists, prodding our surroundings and revealed knowledge and begging answers of them both.  We supplement our questions with observations, and take them captive with critical thinking.

Perhaps, you noticed the sad part of this story.  It is this:  I asked the questions, I answered them.  Sadly, the class has 25 people in it.  And yet, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I go through this.  Occasionally, a mind awakens elsewhere in the room and asks a question.  Hardly ever do they answer it on their own accord.  The classroom has become like a topics bucket for charades, except the person acting out the charade is acting out a foreign term, and the guessers do not speak his language regardless.

In the Spring of 2010, I had a Sociology class at 11 a.m.  I walked out of a 10 a.m. class I had just finished and began to walk in the opposite direction of my next class, intending on skipping Sociology.  A voice in my head screamed “What are you doing?  You’re here to get an education.  Go get it.”  I turned around, and promptly went to the class.  This moment has haunted me ever since.  If you ask me if I care about the great achievements of world literature, I would honestly tell you that they are not of the utmost importance on my priorities list.  And yet, I am in the class.  Not only that, but I enjoy it; I enjoy it because I try!  I am learning, and what I am learning is not that bad, in fact, it’s wonderful at times!  William Lowe Bryan said,”Education is one of the few things a person is willing to pay for and not get.”  I resolve to not be one of them.

But the others?  They don’t care.  And it’s not just this class.  This is every.  single.   class.   Every class I have taken in college, students are barely getting by, studying for the test only and learning nothing.  In my mind, it totally devalues a college education.  What is an Auburn diploma worth if 90% of those holding one spent more time at the bar than in the classroom, if 90% of the students never opened 90% of their textbooks for their classes?  What good is a college education if you don’t want to learn?  Why are they here?  Money!?  Surely we have something greater to live for.  For this, partly, the blame is on the students, but I don’t think it’s the only place that there should be blame.

Out of my own sheer frustration, I became one of them momentarily today in class.  I stopped listening, and grabbed a pen and paper.  A girl droned on across the room, answering wrongly a question that was quite obvious.  I focused my attention to my private thoughts and this is what I wrote:

Today’s American education system has taught the student how to identify an answer, not how to formulate one.  They have taught this generation how to ask questions but not how to answer them.  If they only knew the harm they had inflicted upon them, this generation would never forgive ‘the system’.  It is this very system that will lead to their downfall.  However, they will not worry nor fret.  They don’t know how to truly do so.  They will simply continue in their descent down the educational ladder, denigrating our culture, and forgetting the heros of scholarship past.  Upon arriving at intellectual poverty, they will not point fingers or will point them wrongly.  They will simply and half-heartedly ask,”What happened?” Yet they will not know how to answer their own question.  Sadly, they have never been taught to do just that.

I finished the thought, looked up, corrected the girl’s answer and posited a more succinct answer to the teacher.  He nodded as usual, and we moved forward into more discussion.

I am not writing this in pride.  I am writing this to make a point:  Value your education.  Fight for it.  “Fight who?” you ask.  Fight yourself.  We are our own worst enemies, as a society and as a generation.  Don’t let anyone tell you “It’s just one class” or “You can’t do this.”  If you don’t think you can learn, you never will.  If you only ask questions and never seek answers, you will only be as smart as the person next to you who, unfortunately, is likely to be just like you.  Fight, fight- don’t ever give up.  It has always been easy to fool the ignorant, to steal from them all they have, even their very rights.  But the educated, they are our true warriors in a world embroiled in ideology! No one can ever take your education from you, they can only take your diploma.  Please, fellow student, just try.

Who knows?  It may change everything.

The things taught in colleges and schools are not an education, but the means of education.

Ralph Waldo Emerson 

It is time.  It is time to learn how to learn, to learn how to care, to learn true value.
Which is your goal?
Hopefully this
Not this.

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