Too cool for school

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Consider how often you’ve heard the following statements: “You don’t need to read the book, just go to class.” “It’s OK, I went to class once a week and still got an A.” “I started my paper the day before it was due and just pulled an all-nighter to finish it.”

In contrast, when was the last time you heard one of these? “I was in class today and learned this awesome thing about (blank)!” “That test was great; I didn’t realize how much I’ve learned!” “I just finished a 10-page paper about (blank) and learned so much!”

Many are probably very familiar with the first set of phrases. You’ve heard them, and maybe even said them, dozens of times. The second set, however, might as well be a foreign language. Is it because it’s not true? Or is it because there’s a stigma associated with it, a sort of conversational taboo preventing students from expressing their enjoyment of education? Too often I feel that it’s the latter, and I personally would like to see this stigma discarded.

I believe this issue is rooted in our human tendency to adapt to our situations by following certain cues. For example, when we arrive at BYU, we learn social norms, whether it’s proper roommate etiquette or what to call campus buildings. Unfortunately, one of these norms seems to be a disdain for class work. On one side, there’s an eager-to-learn freshman subconsciously asking, “How should I feel about my education?” On the other side, there are countless upperclassmen and other freshmen audibly responding with answers found in the first paragraph of this article. How does the freshman respond? Typically, he or she joins the ranks of students who appear to tolerate their schoolwork at best. If the eagerness to learn remains, it is kept well hidden by the fear of awkwardness that would come from sharing it.

Perhaps you think this is a gross exaggeration, or that the idea of joyfully studious students is a hopeless ideal. But at an institution where our motto begins with “enter to learn,” and predominantly as part of a religion which claims “the glory of God is intelligence,” this ideal should be the reality. Education is more than jumping through the hoops of class, homework, and exams — it is an intellectual adventure, a way to equip yourself with the tools necessary to change the world. If you pursue your education with the intent to “get by,” you will walk away from BYU with a degree. But if you pursue it with an appetite for wisdom instead of grades, with the end goal of service and not simply completion, you will walk away with power and freedom and passion. I think it’s time that our attitudes and language begin to reflect this second way of thinking, because I for one would rather have power than just an 8 ½-by-11-inch sheet of paper.

For those who agree, I invite you to open up and begin this much-needed change at BYU. Share what you’re learning, engage in intelligent conversations, do more than “get by,” and be proud of it! It seems there are fewer scholars who take pride in their work than there are slackers who take pride in their lack of work. It may be awkward to speak up at first, but your voice and mine have the power to create an atmosphere so conducive to true education that our peers will actually want to join our ranks — joyfully studious students, free to express our undying love for learning.

W.B. Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” As such, it can be shared without diminishing the original flame. Not only can we feed this fire in ourselves while at BYU, but we can and ought to encourage others to do the same.

By: Liz Montgomery

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