Inordinate Ordnance: School, what is it good for?

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Written by Chris Carr

I came to university for the ideas, not the grades. There is something wrong with this institution, born of industry and not innovation. We celebrate a stretch of rhetoric, the bell-curve and pandering here; this is the relationship between teacher and student.

I’m for free education. However I’m against the declaration of four-years-spent. That’s what a degree is, a declaration to your aunts and uncles that you completed something. You crawled through those boring economics classes, accounting tests. You’ve read Heidegger and Chaucer and you know how string theory works, kind of.

There is a problem with this. The problem is not my liberal sense of education has its own benefits—which is true—the problem stems from the system of imposed substance much of education has become. The problem is what has evolved from the great idea of common education into an expected relationship between student and teacher.

Its important for your profs to like you. If they do, they can write you letters of recommendation, help you get into post-grad programs and of course, I’m sure it helps when it comes to marking your essay ill-constructed essay you wrote the night before. This is pandering, and its inescapable. The truth is, we are people and relationships shape who we are. We all are part of a human-run system of education.

However, the way in which we interact (teacher and student) needs an overhaul. Cramming for exams and ad hoc essay writing should not be what our education hinges on. I’ve had many profs who understand the problems of the standard exam structure. This accounts for the rise of take-home exams and critical summaries in classes. What is the problem here?

This system of education does not lend itself to learning, it lends itself to back slapping and pandering. We, the students are at fault for this, as a lot of us do not want to learn, we just want to be told we are right. We aim at reinforcing our own ignorant ideals, even if that stifles, new, creative ideas and thoughts. How many times have you shoe-horned your own personal beliefs into an essay, even though it did not merit it?

This isn’t learning, it’s reinforcing non-progress. I am a philosophy major, and truth be told, I took it to learn how to argue religion, because at my core, I think religion is stupid. However, in more travels in the philosophic arts, I’ve learned that maybe I’m just an asshole. Maybe my ideas aren’t very good. Maybe I’m just full of hot air, ignorant and insensitive to the thoughts and values of others.

I’ve learned all this from my time at school. But that came from a string of bad marks and failed assignments. Sure, I’m learning that I didn’t give my profs what they wanted. I’m learning how to conform. I’m learning how to write a pro-feminist paper because my prof is sensitive to this struggle. I’m learning to go to office hours, to put a face to the name so the next time it comes up on an exam, it’s not just a name, it’s a person’s future. I’ve learned to be out-spoken in class so the teacher knows who I am. I’ve learned not to have too radical of ideals, because its not in the freakin’ syllabus. I’ve learned to massage this education system, to make it work for me, without actually doing much work at all.

I’m getting a BA in BS.

I control this, I have no delusions about that. I just think that maybe there is a better way. An education system that caters to forward-thinking and radical new ideas. How about we learn what is important to us? Not that which is deemed important by a single person (i.e. the aforementioned syllabus). I say, make education free, but take away the superfluous titles and diplomas that come with it.

Spend four years learning about Socrates, the economy, art history and at the end, what do you get? You get to be an intelligent person. You get to be better. You get to feel like your grey matter isn’t being wasted. You get to understand. You get an appreciation for the machine we live in. You get no debt. You get it.

I’d rather education represented time given, rather than time spent grueling over asinine grading schemes.







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