Graduation or Bust? The Challenging Pursuit to be Challenged

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Let me preface this post by saying, I have had some amazing teachers who have helped shape and mold me into who I am today. However, I have also had teachers who could not care less about me as a student. The words that follow address a problem I have noticed within the educational system, mainly within my time at my current university.

I am disappointed in myself and in my expectations of my university. I came into this academic year energized, driven, and passionate. Now, I am a sad, underinflated, and under impressed balloon of potential.

Walking into this new semester, I thought, “Yes, a new school means new challenges and new lessons to learn.” Sadly, nearly 12 weeks in, I could not be more incorrect. Looking back at these past 12 weeks, I realize I have not learned much, nor have my professors truly, deeply academically challenged me. Yes, I have learned a little here and there. But, overall, this past semester has seemed pointless so far.  Unfortunately, I am not alone in this.

The question is, who or what is to blame for this? That is, if anything or anyone even deserves the blame. Or is this a collaborative, subconscious effort by all students, professors, and society alike? We are all to blame for the bystander effect in education today. Not one person, group, or institution is to blame for this. We are all victims to the challenging pursuit to be challenged.

Enrollment dropped by nearly 5,000 students at my school in the past year. Nowadays, fewer students attend a university, let alone a junior college. Most people accept the growing idea that the money and time is not worth it. Real life experience tends to outweigh the potential benefits of a piece of paper.

For those who do decide to take the plunge towards a college degree, receiving an education becomes the ultimate memorization and testing field. Rarely ever do students say, “Wow, I am really glad I took all those exams to get my degree. I learned so much about my field of study. I could not have learned any of that elsewhere. It was worth the money and time.”

Professors [and institutions] seem to be more concerned about test scores than the students who take them. For those professors that proclaim to care about their students, their ability to actually teach and challenge students suffers. When did the educational system become an either or fallacy, and why? When did having a heart for students mean not growing their knowledge base? When did growing a student’s knowledge base mean not caring?

Undeniably, I am a student who seeks and pursues challenging courses. I love the process of learning and growing my brain. I love the search for new ideas and possibilities. I love growing my knowledge base about topics I am passionate about.

Nevertheless, the search for a truly challenging course and caring professor is harder than the academic challenges in courses themselves. It is discouraging and unsatisfying. However, we can all do a little something to change this.

Despite what I may hope, every university I attend will have its problems. Every university I attend will have professors that care more about a student’s head rather than their heart and vice versa. Neither of these is wrong. They become a problem when it is one extreme or the other.

Students can help change this by speaking up, by asking tough questions. I cannot count how many times I have heard a professor say they learn more from students compared to what they teach them. This is not bad! We should all be vessels of knowledge. Teachers are there to learn and stretch themselves just as much as we are. Students also need to use courses as opportunities to further learn on their own. Most of the time, just the coursework is not enough to know all one can in their field. Students should strive to be lifelong learners in and outside of the classroom. In a world that is constantly changing, this is more than necessary.

Professors can help by observing students and understanding each class. I would prefer a professor knows everyone on a personal level, rather than perceive themselves as being the cool and hip one everyone loves. I can assure you understanding students on a heart level will be much cooler than being up in the times of today just to fit in with your audience. Many students like myself put their heart and soul into learning because they enjoy it and desire to advance in their field. Professors can help make this possible by acting as guides for their students, instead of stifling their love for learning and growth. They should offer words of wisdom besides a job well done.

Universities should give students the proper resources to understand what each course will entail on a deeper level. Several times in my college career, I enrolled into a course thinking it would be a certain way and it was far from what the description stated. I understand that every teacher runs his or her classroom a little bit differently than the next. But, it should not be so bad that students dread going to school.

Again, I am certain I am not the only one that feels this way. However, I also know this is probably the outspoken minority group of students as well. Most do not mind the hurdles of school for the social aspect more than anything else. Do not get me wrong, that is nice. But, for some, who are working nearly full-time and are married, there needs to be more in education. Otherwise, enrollment will only continue to dwindle. Campuses will continue to renovate and build on for an attending population of none.

I challenge you all to take a look at why did or do you go to school. Ask yourself what you learned. Become a part of the conversation about the challenging pursuit to be challenged.

Blessings,

Renata

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