In a generational timeframe when society guilt trips high school graduates into feeling they “have to” attend a four-year college or university at the least, there is a rift amongst student bodies everywhere. There are those who have some semblance of an intellectual fiber in their body, and those who do not. Being intellectual is not the same as being smart.
This is not specifically a jab at Springfield College students. It is certainly not disrespect to any students with learning disabilities. After all, this is not an argument that college campuses should be small-scale elitist societies. Everyone should have the right to pursue higher education.
Our generation of college kids is not “stupid”. In fact, it is easy to see there is an abundance of smart young people everywhere. I read somewhere in an online discussion on this subject that “college has become a four-year-vacation interrupted by bouts of cramming and Google-plagiarizing.” This is not entirely true, as there are plenty of ambitious and engaged students to be found on every college campus. However, it does hold a degree of truth.
The majority of students I know cram for tests, retaining almost no information afterwards. I am guilty of it myself, and I think in a lot of cases it can be a justifiable tactic, believe it or not. The aphorism “C’s get degrees” is thrown around so often because it too holds a degree of truth. What are troubling to me are not our generation’s study habits, or our nihilistic attitudes towards the formality of a college curriculum. There are certainly courses in which I do not give my full attention in or out of the classroom. Part of me is okay with that.
What is bothersome is how we carry ourselves as educated people, transcending the classroom. If I had a dollar for every time a student said that they could not remember the last time they read a book in its entirety, well, I would have a lot more money to buy books for myself.
College was formerly utilized in part as an outlet for people with a thirst for knowledge, while also providing career training to them. Most students today still take their career training seriously, but could care less about possessing any intellect. As a result of this, unfair strain is placed on collegiate professors to accommodate for an overall lack of preparation by their students. Students often have no critical thinking skills of their own.
It seems preposterous that a college student could admit that it has been years since they last read a book from front cover to finish, yet it is a reality for many. We are conditioned to do just enough, to do only what is needed to have a chance at a diploma, a potential career. Who really gives a damn, though? Many students have gone most of their academic career without a curiosity to learn, and that is not about to change upon their arrival at college.
When freshmen enter college, a large portion of them are recommended to take remedial math courses following an assessment, myself included. This is not because every teacher we had in kindergarten through twelfth grade failed us. It is because we lack the accountability needed to achieve what we are capable of intellectually. How can we attain a wealth of new knowledge in four years if we have spent the past thirteen avoiding any real investment in self-intelligence?
Instead of honing the writing, reading, and analysis skills taught in first-year writing courses, college professors find themselves teaching sentence structure to many students who cannot read and write at a high school level, never mind a collegiate one.
Certainly, students who have any learning impairments or who are speaking English as a secondary language are not to be ridiculed. For the general college population, however, a basic understanding of material introduced in the second grade (and retreaded every year since) is still not apparent.
We expect that our attendance and our money are good enough for a degree. No need for any real effort or struggle.
This is not an issue of who we decide subjectively is “smart” or “dumb”. It is an issue that a majority of students pursuing a higher education do not care about improving their knowledge or intellectual self-worth. Perhaps even the most intellectual of students have momentary lapses into a nihilistic attitude towards treating their collegiate career as a means to a diploma rather than an opportunity for personal growth.
It is time to stop doing just enough to get by. Many of us in some capacity went about our high school careers as a journey for a solitary piece of paper—a diploma, and not much else. It appears that most of us go to college with the same mindset.
The average college campus used to be home to a population of young intellectuals. Not all of these past students were dean’s list students, or scholars, or went on to great career success. Maybe some did not care more than students do today, but there was a culture of appreciation for the knowledge at our disposal. Today, students with respect for their own intellectualism clump together, learning, growing, and self-investing minorities in a crowd of people earning degrees because they “have to.” Sophistication is now the counterculture.