So what did you learn at school today?

Heath Verhasselt

So it’s dead week, you can expect a somewhat easy week in terms of lectures, if you even go to them at all. Dead week involves a lot of stress, papers due and projects that need to be turned in. For many there may be too much to do with little time to do it in. But it’s during dead week I think we need to take time to reflect on the semester. Both the good times and the bad. Successes and failures, friends lost and the new. All the experiences you’ve had and all the new stuff you’ve learned. But what exactly have you learned?

You might be thinking to yourself, “well that’s a stupid question.” but actually try to answer it. Of course you could probably point out a few formulas you memorized, or some new vocabulary you’ve picked up, but did you actually learn anything is the question I ask. And that’s because you more than likely didn’t. You, like myself, did what you had to do to pass a course, and as it would seem that rarely requires learning. They’ve beaten memorization into us so much over the years to the point that its all we know how to do. Memorize a few terms, maybe some formulas, take a test, get the good grade, and what does that accomplish? Not much.

Think about it, you pay almost $19,000 annually to go to Iowa State to receive a good college education. Note how Iowa State only advertises “adventures” rather than a high quality education in their ads. And what do you get out of it, yes of course you do get your adventure, but did you learn what you had hoped? And the thing is, it’s not just Iowa State, but almost all colleges face this same issue. How can you teach so many students concepts of rather large importance and just as large complexity? Standardized tests was the answer they went with, but was that the right one? From their perspective yes, but at a huge cost to students.

The party to blame in this situation is actually three. Yes, the administration needs to be held accountable, but in the classroom itself who can we blame? Although there are the many exceptions of all the good professors out there, but quite a few professors teaching intro level courses, reading off Powerpoint slides, with their mind focused more on the research they are doing rather than the guy in the front playing Sudoku, clearly not listening. And yet arises the final problem to this issue: us, the students. It’s mostly our fault. It’s on us to question every single thing the professor says, even if we “don’t care” and we just don’t do it. Students not paying attention, not showing up, and just plain not wanting to learn have ruined college academics. Because if the students don’t care, then the professor doesn’t care, and if the professor doesn’t care, then the administration and the other faculty simply do not care.

Personally, I like to learn. Yes getting a degree will be nice but I don’t expect any employers to be giving me multiple choice tests every month with a “final” twice a year. And that’s why I went to college: to learn. I like a challenge, I like critical thinking. I like leading groups, working on projects that have an end goal, and working on teams. All of which are things I get, and not all from Iowa State, but elsewhere. Although I will admit our 400 level classes do really present some challenges for us undergrads, I get my fix on the previous by doing other extra curricular activities. From part time jobs, to academic clubs/organizations, to writing for the Iowa State Daily. I find ways to fill this void I have been discussing and go on with life. The broken college system won’t hold me back, what about you?