Today I stood in line at One-Stop and heard someone actually say, acronym pronounced, “OMG, school is like, so lame. My Ethics and Values class is going to be so much busywork.”
O audacious, self-entitled American youth. Youth of Tastes, youth of Tech, youth of Ebay, Mac, Vanity, Obesity. It’s 2010, and let’s face it, Generation Y (or generation Y-O-U to be more accurate), we’re probably better shoppers at this point than we are seekers of knowledge. It is sad that education is now subject to that disgusting, all-American concept of “getting the best bang for your buck.” How riddled with violence and selfishness that phrase is.
Socrates said: “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Unfortunately, at UVU and other universities around the country, students today often treat the process of learning as they would a transaction – as consumers instilled with the idea that all things ought to be custom-fit to their every wish. Every day I see students stare skeptically and with condemnation at professors as they would car salesmen or restaurant servers who deliver meals too cold. Sure, we can blame the state of education on capitalism. But I say that we, Generation Y, are culpable for our own idiotic behavior.
Passive, drooping postures in class seem to say to teachers: “My dissatisfaction level could skyrocket at any second if you don’t keep me interested but also comfortable, in which case I’ll be giving you a low rating on ratemyprofessor.com, whining to the dean, or worse, expressing my dislike of your teaching style in my Facebook status.” Students like these often come to school to be served and filled with satisfaction for what they already think or believe rather than for bewilderment or transformation. Since when did the university become a five-star resort? Since when did professors become bell boys, massage therapists and maids who exist solely to cater to our tastes, to censor materials in accordance with our ideas of morality? And how many times do we have to reiterate the fact that UVU is not BYU?
Last semester I took an upper-division English class with one of the most eloquent and academically dazzling professors here at UVU, who also happens to be one of the most accommodating and kind people I have ever met. In it, we read an incredibly moving and literary autobiographical comic about a young lesbian. And even though the professor offered alternative texts to read, certain students chose to read the comic anyway and spent the semester complaining about its inappropriateness, about how the curriculum ought to be reconsidered. Seriously? Guys, girls, pleeaze. Just because you’ve been spoon-fed neat and tidy platitudes about the world your whole life or just because you live in the city that invented Cleanflicks doesn’t mean you can walk into a classroom with such rigid, self-serving expectations. The “real” world will not lay safe paths for you when you walk out into it, nor will it censor ugliness, confusion, its unfathomable vastness, tragedy or diversity, though Happy Valley would have you believe otherwise. “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living,” said Mark Twain, “The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
UVU may still be up-and-coming as a university, but there are qualified professors here with rich and healthy wisdom to offer. Let’s stop treating liberal education like we would a designer purse purchased from Nordstrom: like it’s contents and practical uses are irrelevant so long as the appearance of it (the certificate), gets us where we need to go on the social circuit. Physically, UVU may feel like an airport sometimes. But we shouldn’t treat it as one. It can be the kindler of great, meaningful fires. Students of 2010, let us rip the iPods from our ears, wipe that skeptic buyer’s gaze off our faces, and live in the (K)NOW!