This week ahead I have an undergraduate research presentation, a French presentation, a security simulation, 60 pages of reading for economics, eight cantos of the Faerie Queen and two articles for English; not excluding an editorial column due three days ago. This is my list, in brief, of crap I have to do over the next six days.
I should be freaking out. I should probably be downing Adderall-infused lattes from Kofenya, taking few breaks only to second-hand smoke some nicotine from the people outside. Instead, I had a leisurely late lunch at Patterson’s Café after managing to snag some playtime in the sun. As a fastidious first-year and a studious second-year, I would not have seen the light of day in preparation for a week like this.
But as this year comes to a close, I realize I’ve become more of an energy-thrifty third-year. Partly so I have more time to string together mildly clever alliterations, but mostly because some work just doesn’t need to be done.
The University of Washington produced a study last year that focused on the academic standards of our college generation, and how core curriculum and development has evolved to meet the demands of the world in which we live. The emphasis here was placed heavily upon information, media and technical skills — skills that are 21st century specific.
The study found a heavy need for technological ability, in addition to a strengthening trend across colleges in implementing liberal arts curriculums. What I took away from the research I read was a fairly simple message: as children of the tech age, our access to information has increased exponentially and we are expected to know how to get it quickly and apply it appropriately. However, academic standards have yet to adjust to how easily we can get answers to questions.
While catching up with a classmate last week, I mentioned how much work I had to do for the next two days — and how much of it I actually planned on doing. I found a fairly decent translation of a novel for French. SparkNotes has canto-by-canto plot summaries of the Faerie Queen, because frankly life is just too short. And I say this with the heavy risk of my professor reading this, but I haven’t done more than skim my economics readings since about the middle of February. And I’m averaging A’s or A-‘s in each of those classes. Bringing this idiosyncrasy to the attention of my friend, he said something absolutely perfect. “That’s because you don’t work hard, you work smart.”
Sure, when it’s an exam week and I have projects and papers, I bust my can to get the work done and done well. But the Internet has more or less rendered pure academic pursuit an obsolete practice in the modern college world. Google can answer my basic questions and the fine art of rhetoric (i.e. totally BS-ing) means even if I haven’t done the work, it always looks like I have.
I have to wonder if college students knew more about what they were studying when they went to school prior to Internet access? When we graduate, we’ll all be somewhat experts in our field of study. But the sad truth is that piece of paper called a diploma doesn’t quite mean what it used to.
We put in the hours when it counts, but all the extras that go into the true scholastic experience doesn’t happen anymore. We do what we need in order to get by. But there are a few who go out of their way to learn just for the sake of learning. I know people that will Google questions in class on their Androids before even thinking about skimming the textbook for the answer.
This is part of our generation’s identity, but it makes me a little sad for the world of learning. I suppose my point today is that sometimes we should go that extra mile, read that optional reading or article or attend a guest lecture, because we’re paying money to learn and not as much of that happens here as it should.