Why you should enjoy these last few weeks of the semester
Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 25, 2016
Sometimes it feels like my classes own me. Given that the demand for higher education has increased since the 2007 mortgage crisis, despite rising costs, I’d say that most individuals would agree on the purpose of this expensive investment: to advance and empower the student. But the course of my education has at times felt not empowering but oppressive — my studies seem to tax me brutally of sleep, of relationships and of happiness, especially during “crunch time.” During my years at ND, I have often wondered whether this tax inevitably accompanies my education’s price tag. As a senior reflecting on my experience, I think I can confidently conclude the opposite to be true; my college education is free of all intangible taxes but those I opt to apply myself.
We are expected to complete assignments, write papers and study diligently, and we are expected (sometimes) to supply our attention to our professors thus, such that we pay them due respect. However, these activities in and of themselves do not comprise our educations. No, an education transpires in the mind, and at Notre Dame, in our hearts. These activities challenge our minds and hearts, of course, but too often the challenges they pose, once answered, have no lasting effect upon us. Try to imagine, for example, a way in which you are changed after cramming for an exam. Most of your knowledge is crude and ephemeral. Imagine, also, when cramming and its equivalents become a habit — at the end of our schooling, we may come out of our own recitation rooms with a bag of wind and a memory of words, remembering nothing. Classmates, we are doing school, but education is not a series of actions. It is development; it is a slow revolution.
This failing of our schooling is not entirely our fault, however. We are externally encouraged to orient ourselves toward an end rather than the odyssey; we are expected to (and often asked to) value our grades highly, sometimes above all else. Though grades are not inherently bad, as they are often quite useful (especially in training our own discipline) a focus on this discipline, and more realistically, on measurable success, often overwhelms our innate desires to learn. Do not blind yourself so. Such a narrow focus allows, ironically, for our schooling to be robbed of its genuine educational ability; that is, any schooling that ignores the beauty and wonder of the transformative wanderings of human education in fact educates its subjects very little. Students, then, must not be subjects owned by their schooling but agents of their own learning. In this way, we will remain cognizant of our innate desire to learn, and we will enjoy satisfying that desire each and every day. If we regularly succeed in learning, we may indeed emerge from school advanced, empowered and hungry to continue our education, a beautiful, life-long transformation of the heart and mind.
Grant Allen, a contemporary to Mark Twain, often wrote: “Never let your schooling interfere with your education.”
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.