If you’re reading this, chances are good you are either a student, or you work at this (soon-to-be) university. I’m a student here, and I’m considered a "non-traditional" student because I’ve returned to school in my thirties after a 14-year hiatus.
I’m planning on graduating this spring after pushing my ass hard for three years, and I’ve observed an interesting phenomenon that I don’t believe is unique to UVSC. Of the majority, students here don’t enroll to learn.
Before you start arguing, think about what you see around you. I have been in classes in at least half of the departments on campus and have sat next to my fair share of mute glassy-eyed zombies who don’t think it’s "worth it" to buy the textbook, and who have accumulated maybe six pages of notes at the end of a semester.
The sad state of today’s student dedication toward education starts with money. In the long run, it might end up that paying for your child’s college education is a mistake unless they are already equally committed to attending. As a student, if you have to work and spend your barely-above-minimum-wage paycheck to be there, you might be a little bit more committed to making the most of your opportunities.
This here points to the my second problem: entitlement.
There, I said it. Though it’s the elephant in the room, it needs to be stated. I have now had conversations with more than fifteen professors who alternately bemoan or rage against this growing educational virus. What is entitlement? you ask.
Well, the favored bastion of academic knowledge among students, Wikipedia reads, "Entitlement (refers to) a more casual (…) belief that he/she is deserving of some particular reward or benefit."
The ways entitlement is expressed are numerous and ridiculously stupid; such as a student expecting a professor to accept late work because they didn’t get it done, had other things to do, or forgot about it. My all time favorite is the notion that a student who blows off classes, assignments, and studying all semester somehow expects to be given a break on the grade or extra credit in order to pass the class. What this all boils down to is an expectation from students for professors to hand them their education via "a grade" as if it were a cheeseburger or a new bra from Victoria’s Secret.
This brings me back to "non-traditional" student concept. I admit, I fully sucked as a student when I went to college straight out of high school. In the years since, I have made several successful careers for myself. More importantly, I’ve lived a bit of life and learned a hell of a lot including the very important fact that I don’t know very much.
This time around, I am willing to juggle my partners, family, business, finances, housework, meals, and running (i.e. my life) in order to be in school. I am willing to sacrifice sleep and relaxation to receive A’s in hard classes. And I am willing to sacrifice vacations and stress-free evenings in order to learn.
The energy exerted isn’t so I can get "a job" and make the big bucks. Yes, I’ll seek new careers and new learning and growth. I’ll make money. The point is, I could have done all of that successfully without coming back to school.
This experience is an opportunity to learn things I wouldn’t have access to without it. It has been an opportunity to improve my ability to think. It has given me the opportunity to challenge what I am capable of.
So I think we need to ask ourselves, ‘When you take classes, do you go for the easy ones? When a class is difficult, do you do the least amount of work possible to get the grade you want? Do you complain that you HAVE to take biology or algebra or ethics & values?’
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then I have to ask:
Why are you here?
Do everyone a favor: figure out why you (just you, and no one else) want to be here. If you don’t want to be here, go and figure out what you do want and do it. And when there comes a time when you do know why and what you want to learn, take a class. You’ll realize that even among biology, algebra and ethics & values, you’ll learn from tremendous people who teach you something important about yourself and your world.