That whole thing about pretending to be dumb to look cool didn’t make sense in high school and it certainly doesn’t make sense in college.
I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve overheard fellow students play the how-low-achieving-can-you-go game before class starts.
“Hey man, how’d you do on the test?”
“Oh man, I got a D, but I didn’t study at all, so I guess it’s alright.”
“Yeah, same here. D is for diploma.”
While I recognize the various purposes that such a conversation might serve – stress relief, nervous small talk, academic confessionals – an unfortunate, and let’s pretend, wholly unintentional side effect is that it gets on my nerves.
These conversations – or their evil twin the have-you-started-on-that-project-yet conversation – may be commonplace enough that they seem normal, but I think they indicate some very abnormal thinking.
We’re in college and that education is costing someone money. In a time when it has become almost automatic to get an undergraduate degree, it seems like students are losing sight of this. But even if college is starting to feel more like extended high school, procrastinating and trying to get by with doing as little as possible does not make sense.
We are paying our professors to teach us as much as they can to increase our chances of excelling in the job market. Why avoid those lessons when we, our parents and/or tax payers are spending so much money for us to have access to their knowledge?
Professors are not the enemy who have set up some kind of obstacle course to be successfully navigated. The winner is not the person who completes the obstacle course with the least amount of effort. There is no automatic prize at the end – no cheese, no job.
Skills and knowledge are what help students get jobs in the real world, as well as experience working hard and getting things done on time. None of these things are achieved by avoiding work, plain and simple.
Yet another part of this attitude that doesn’t make sense is what it assumes about employers.
“Hi, I’m an employer. I see you graduated from college. That must mean that you know everything you need to know to work for me, so I won’t bother seeing if you have any of the skills needed for this job. I’ll go ahead and pay you well while I’m at it, because you graduated from college and that’s all that I care about,” Mr. Employer says.
Why does all of this bother me so much? It makes students in general look bad, which decreases the amount of trust and professionalism in the classroom. It shows disrespect to professors and the knowledge they’re trying to share. It creates a fake atmosphere in the classroom, where the pursuit of knowledge should be the goal instead of the pursuit of just getting by. It lessens what having a college degree means.
It makes college a joke, and I’m not quite ready to believe that yet.
So to return to that hypothetical student conversation, those two students should either be making the most of their education by completing their assignments on time and to the best of their abilities or too ashamed to admit out loud before the entire class that they are doing otherwise.
Procrastination and poor work ethic should not be what we’re practicing in college, because they’re not what we should be proud of and, in the end, will not be what we’ll be rewarded for. So the next time we’re tempted to boast at how little work we got away with on that last assignment or how close to the last minute we waited to get something done, remember we’re not fooling anybody, only ourselves.