Finn: Fading passion for education


Photo Illustration: Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

We all know them: students sitting in the back row, lounging with their laptops and not paying attention. Slackers are found in basically every class.

Taylor Finn

In a couple of my classes, I sometimes find myself laughing because there are always that handful of students who are sitting in the classroom with Pinterest or Facebook pulled up on their laptops not paying attention to the professor, hoping somehow how that the information will magically makes its way into their brains.

I am not in any position to pass judgment, and if I was being completely honest, I, too, would admit that paying attention and staying engaged all of the time is tricky, but scenarios like the one I described led me to think about the ways in which the institution of college has changed.

My grandfather went to veterinarian school here after World War II; in his era, students went to school to gain an understanding of their intended field, and their time and energy was primarily dedicated to the academic aspect of college. I sometimes find myself wondering if that remains true today.

I do not doubt for a second that students are attending universities to one day have a job that allows them to live comfortably. What I am not so certain about is whether that future job and the academia are the primary reasons today’s students get excited to attend college.

The new people, the parties, the organizations and the lack of parental supervision are all exciting things, but they shouldn’t trump school work. When students graduate high school and start getting ready for college, most are probably not telling everyone how thrilled they are for their class load. Homework and studying have become chores that everyone dreads doing instead of opportunities to learn something new and prepare for a future career.

There is a graduate student I know who is also a teaching here at Iowa State. He once said that when people ask him what he does, he is tempted to tell them he is a dentist, because teaching is becoming more and more like pulling teeth. I thought his comment, though humorous, had a lot of merit and should be cause for concern. Since when did engaging a group of college students in an educated discussion require so much energy? We have all been there I am sure; in the middle of a group discussion, no one seems to have anything to say, and the class is just sitting there is an awkward silence. You also may have witnessed the countless number of questions a teacher may ask the class that go unanswered.

Unfortunately, these types of occurrences are becoming more frequent and there seems to be a loss of enthusiasm toward learning. In most cases, the classrooms are not filled with eager, bright-eyed students thirsting for knowledge but instead filled with individuals who attend class because they have to. Our generation of students often does what needs to be done in order to get by but is lacking the passion that previous generations had.

Plenty of recent studies show proof of America’s lagging education system. When once we could think of ourselves as at the top of the game, we are now ranked far lower. A recent NBC article states that our high school students are scoring less than the international average in areas of reading, math, and science. I fear that college students are following a similar trend, but perhaps for lack of motivation and passion rather than for lack of good education.

Maybe it is because social networking sites weren’t around in my grandfather’s time to consume most of his time and energy, or maybe it is because attending college was more difficult in his era, so students appreciated it more; maybe it was more meaningful or crucial to get that degree. I am not sure why it is that students have become less passionate, and I am not quite sure what a good solution to this epidemic is. What I do know is if America wants to be on top, then education must come first, and students must regain their hunger to learn and discover new things.