Its the start of yet another semester, with its tests, papers and readings. At the risk of sounding cliche, I will say that I still remember my first year. I came into university with a strategy; read and regurgitate. Unfortunately university required a teeny bit more than that, it required me to understand and apply. This realization was fine of course until I took classes that I thought should require me to not just apply but create and then school and I reached an impasse. Don’t get me wrong I was very impressed with the new way I was learning. Never in my learning career had I been pushed to truly understand the subject matter in the way that I was being pushed and it felt amazing! (Yes I’m a nerd..deal). I guess that feeling made me greedy. Its like this, if all I ever knew was vanilla ice cream, I was fine with that but now that I’ve tried cookies and cream, its kind of made me wonder what the other possibilities are.
What framed this for me was a conversation I had with a few people not too long ago. the general consensus was that essays were a trap. You’re asked to say what you think “and as long as you defend it properly there’s no right or wrong answer”. The truth however is that there is a right answer which is what was taught in class, then there’s the objection to the right answer which is a bit of a wild card cause your answers still have to line up to what the professor thinks the objection should be. The wrong answer in an essay is any opinion that veers too far off from the professors ideas, and while your thought process may not be wrong, it doesn’t conform so boo-hoo boo boo, you get a C for effort.
I’m not saying that this happens all the time but sometimes it feels like you have to give up expressing what you really think for an A (not that your A is guaranteed anyhow); but you know what really grinds my gears? Its the classes that are supposed to be “liberal”. The ones that focus on social justice. They are great if you want to learn about the social issues that plague us everyday but the minute you try to talk about solutions, somebody throws you the vaguest possible term “activism”. Then you try to lift the veil on what activism really means because its all well and good to know the problem but where do we go from here? But you find nothing concrete, and when you even try to suggest that we need to think of new ways to implement social justice, they grunt and carry on. Nothing changes, we keep flying the pretentious flag.
You see the problem is that we need to evolve. University should be about much more than regurgitating and reapplying concepts the same way Marx, Kant or Foucault did, not that we should discard their works of course. University should be about creating; new ideas, new theories. Maybe some other person feels completely different but I require more from my classroom. If university intends to work me to the bone, I need more than grades, I need value.