Hello there! How is everyone’s week going? 🙂
There’s somebody I’d like you all to meet.
Meet Gabriela. She is a 20 year-old earth-dweller, Stanford student, Junior Class President, RA, feminist, intellect, workhorse, and incredible friend. She and I first met in the class “The Page and the Stage: The Rhetoric of Performance” during the spring quarter of our freshman year. Over the past year and a half, I have had the pleasure of gorging upon hundreds of deeply thought-provoking, value-testing conversations and debates with her, and from each one I walk away feeling uniquely filled, yet at the same time hungry for more.
“I can’t stand when people brag about not going to lecture,” Gabriela once remarked during one of our nights lounging about in Cedro. “It’s not cool to not go to class,” she said.
It’s not cool to not go to class.
Immediately, I agree. She and I both feel we came to college to learn, to have our intellectual limits pushed, to forever bid adieu to the foundational requirements our public high schools (@CalcBC) and focus all our mind’s power on the things we know we love. To waste the opportunity to soak up that knowledge from a professor who conducted groundbreaking research in their field is a travesty. To boast the waste? A dishonor.
…maybe I shouldn’t be so hard-edged. As one of my favorite Austin Wu quotes goes, “Moral absolutism is not something people can do.”
For a case study, let’s use an unnamed MS&E class in which I may or may not have a final project grade still pending. The professor is disorganized, unconvincing, and totally spastic. The material is dryer than paper. The TAs are unmotivated and helpful only in forking over the answers to the problem sets as opposed to helping students actually understand the material. Needless to say, the class is less than thrilling. In fact, it’s quite awful–the worst I’ve taken at Stanford.
I stopped attending lecture for this class after Week 3 of the 10-week quarter. I decided to stop attending when I realized that after every class, I left with a foggy, skeletal understanding of the lesson—no, not even skeletal. Skeletal would be great because then I’d have a framework upon which to base further readings—no, I left class with a couple ribs and a left femur. So I quit. Instead, I opted for TAs’ office hours and accepted the regurgitated answers they offered my classmates and me.
So what of academic passion? What of intellectual vitality and the love of learning?
Here’s what my gut tells me, though I’m interested to hear what you think, Dear Reader: If you’re taking a class that truly interests you (which should be the vast majority of your classes,) then skipping lectures, not doing readings, not going to section, and cheating do not help you. They do not make you cool, and they CERTAINLY do not prove that you are ~naturally smart~ and that’s why don’t need to do those things. Please. Spare me.
Every once in a while you (I) make a mistake and accidentally sign up for a terrible class that is neither enjoyable nor requiring of your attendance to attain a passing grade. In these cases, I suppose not attending lecture cannot be considered a moral crime. But I am of the opinion that some serious self-reflection is in store if all of your classes make you feel as miserable as I currently feel in MS&E… XYZ. *Eye nudge*
I think that the point of college is to push oneself, to explore, to dive deep into your intellectual passions. Together classes, extracurriculars, social interactions, and whatever else you personally find stimulating create all that makes college such a wonderfully enriching experience.
So I agree with Gabriela, doing the bare minimum is not impressive. It’s a damn shame.
What do you think, DR? What’s the “point” of college in your opinion/experience?
As always, thanks for reading. Luv u lots boo bearz,
A recent Instagram pic, for your viewing pleasure: