Students take responsibility for learning


Maggie Olson

Maggie Olson

On the first day of class, one of my professors announced an extremely modest amount of homework would be required for their course. Collectively, my class breathed an audible sigh of relief. Then we all laughed aloud, professor included, and looked at each other with the same general thought, “I’m glad there won’t be much homework.”

Later, I felt ashamed of myself. The course was in my major. Why should I feel glad about not doing work that will help me prepare for my career?
I think most of us have taken a Dragon Core/LASC class that occasionally felt irrelevant to our interests or area of study. We may have thought, “I will never use this information.” Maybe those thoughts were true.

There I was, sitting in a class that was in my major, in my area of interest, learning material I will almost certainly be required to teach at some point in my career, and I was thrilled to find I was “getting out of” doing homework.

Teachers across America opine about the apparent disinterest of students. Many have speculated that the “No Child Left Behind” generation is more concerned with passing classes than engaging in them.

Our intellectual curiosity has been squashed by standardized tests that require us to regurgitate just enough information to proceed to the next grade. As a result, we are taught to be goal-oriented instead of learning-oriented.

Being excessively goal-oriented leads to a “just get through” attitude. Just get through this day in class, this assignment, this course, this college education. Next thing you know, your 2.1 GPA has allowed you to get a Bachelor’s degree, but it has not given you anything to set you apart from the 3-4 million other U.S. college students who will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree this year.
In order to reverse this trend, we must think about more than getting through college and getting a job. We must think about what it takes to be truly good at whatever we do.  I think the best way to start is by being engaged in the classroom.

Teachers are not responsible for our education. Teachers are responsible for teaching. Students are responsible for learning. What we do with what we learn is up to us, too.

We are learning the skills we need for our careers, but we are also learning things that will help us contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Education is not just preparation for making money. Life does not need to be about making money. We need to value ideas because they are interesting, not simply because they are applicable. We need to create a culture in which people want to read good literature, are interested in science research, etc. We need to be that culture by engaging in our classrooms and in the world around us.

We can talk about education reform, but if we are to have any hope as a country, that reform must come from students as well as the government.

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