Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nose to the Grindstone

I am a student. Not a “professional student,” I guess, though it sometimes feels that way, given my laborious hours of studying and paper-writing and the daunting prospect of at least another six and a half years of formal university and graduate education to go. I try to take my classes seriously; I fret about my grades and worry about my knowledge retention; I remind myself that I’m here because I want to be here and not because I have to be here. I’m lucky to have this opportunity, after all. Now I’ve got to take advantage of it and make the most of its potential.

I’m getting back into the swing of things, finally, slowly, reluctantly. It’s a short but intense schedule this semester: only 15 credit hours, but that includes three four-hour core Biology/Chemistry classes. Not exactly easy or fun stuff. (But again I’m here because I want to be here and not because I have to be here! The end result, a decade away, will be worth it.)

But while I’m working as hard as I can on my education, I find that others are less than impressed. I was recently confronted with a scathingly derisive description “[someone who] still lives at home…still ‘wet behind the ears,’ who has yet to leave the safety of the ‘nest.’” Ouch. And this coming from a person who has never met me and knows nothing whatsoever about me aside from the minimal info discussed in a few online exchanges. Wow.

One of my new professors this semester has tried, on three occasions already, to get me to drop his class. The reason? I’m a sophomore. The class is designed for juniors, apparently. I have all of the prerequisites and the grades to attest to my proficiency in the subject. No matter. He’s convinced that because I have a year (or two semesters) less experience than the other students enrolled, I’m destined for a crash-and-burn in the course. Thanks, sir, and maybe you’re right, but that’s my concern, not your problem.

Age. Life experience. Knowledge is compiled and wisdom is earned throughout the years, it’s very true. At my youthful age, I know I should—I must—remain humble and attentive. I’ve got volumes and volumes to learn…but we all do. Not that I would want to compare with someone much my senior, lest I fall far short in the “life experience” and “hard-earned wisdom” categories. But if said senior isn’t also humble and attentive, then there’s a problem. Because you don’t magically turn into a grown-up one day, having amassed all the answers in the universe. Nope. It’s a constant, eternal refrain of looking, watching, learning, internalizing, developing, evolving. Otherwise you’re stagnant—set in your ways, unable to change, stubborn as hell, lumpy—and your knowledge is useless. So please don’t discount someone’s opinion based solely on the holder’s age. Although the years in their life may not be numerous, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been packed with meaningful experience.

And while I’m on a somewhat-related subject, I’ve noticed an odd phenomenon among my peers: fierce inter-discipline competition and resentment. Chemistry majors scorn Biology majors for taking an “easy, overdone” route, while the latter think the former is too uptight, overly analytical, and lacking an appreciation for the big picture of things. All science majors are lumped together and treated with suspicion by the more artistically-minded students, while math majors are discounted entirely for being just plain weird). After all, science is just memorization and how hard is that? But the science majors fire back, yelping that they’re doing real meaningful work with real-world applications and results, dammit, while everyone else is puttering away in theoretical la-la land. And the Architecture majors whine too much, and the English majors are slackers, the Philosophy students are conceited and egotistical, the Music majors are delusional, the Business majors are stupid, and so on and so on.

Absurd. What’s up with this competitive drive and one-up-manship? I don’t think I’m being naïve when I say that we really can all learn a lot from each other.


secret agent woman said...

I hope that person who described you that way is not a friend!

If it's any consolation, a college P.E. teacher insisted I drop the volleyball class I had enrolled in (we were required to take 5 P.E. classes) because I wasn't any good at it. But you know, it's not like it ruined my life. You'll show them.

Mozart said...

No, not a friend at all. Just a random casual online acquaintance, which made the accusations all the more absurd.

And I hear ya on the lacking talent in class sports thing--hits a little too close to home. Although I must say that I'm enjoying my karate course this semester...sure beats bowling (lifetime high score: 70-something).