For nearly six years I worked at a NCAA Division One University. It is a smaller school, but still not some Junior Community College. During that time I was a student adviser and also had the opportunity to stand in and teach a few classes. The Philosophy and Economics ones I had the most fun with because I made (or tried to make) people think out of the box. And wouldn’t ya know it, kids these days don’t want to think out of the box.
The student’s inabilities to expand their minds past what they have already been taught really demonstrated to me how the current educational system is effecting an entire generation. Now I’m also young(ish) so I have suffered from the same thing that is going on now, only I was seemingly stubborn and resistant enough to be able to overcome most of this after a lot of years, but still, I’ll never be on par with the older generation who had work hard and think through problems. My father is a great example of this. He is so damn intuitive when working on something it just kills me. He can pick up a jumble of angled parts, look at them for a moment and put the puzzle together like its nothing. This may be a natural ability combined with a learned and developed way of thinking, but still, it a skill that I do not see any time devoted to from early childhood on, in today’s education or culture.
“On par.” I used that phrase just a moment ago. It means average. The middle of meeting ambiguous expectations. I don’t like average anymore.
Early on I was a terrible student, trying to achieve that magic middle ground of “average.” I got through high school by the skin of my teeth (and with a letter requesting I do not come back after a few teenage hijinks). My first quarter of college I didn’t meet the average and was placed on academic probation. I didn’t care then either. Classes didn’t mean much to me when I was wanting to work so I could have money to blow and spend time with my friends. I also didn’t have crap for an adviser. I think that’s why I liked being a student adviser so much, because I never had it all laid out there for me by someone who knew where I was coming from, so that’s the approach I took with my students.
It was probably still a year later that I finally achieved better than average. I want to attribute it to the really good Psychology professor I had who died in a car wreck during the quarter, but I cant. He was weird, entertaining and challenging, and while I cant say it was him specifically that pushed me to be better (I was still just a face in the crowd), it was in his class that for whatever reason, I finally tried to do well.
How the hell I got through all of grade school, high school and a few years of college without ever trying to do well is beyond me and I probably shouldn’t think about it too much. From then on though, I found it fun to be better than average. Get a grade above a C or even a B- ? It was new for me to even care about that. It was at this point that I think I was finally starting to think for myself.
I ended up doing one of my two senior thesis’ on Teaching to Learn. (The other was on combating guerrilla warfare within todays modern terrorism filled society – yes I took an extra senior capstone class just for the fun of it. The un-average student came a long way…). Teaching to Learn, it is another way to say that not everyone learns the same way. For example, I’m a do-er. I don’t learn something very well by just reading about it or having it read to me, I have to get my hands into it for the lesson to actually take hold in my brain. When you read this its kind of a big “Duh” isn’t it? Well that’s the epitome of my college degree. Its something that makes sense when you hear it explained, so why is it completely counter to the way education is taught? I wrote about how teachers need to have the ability to discern students learning styles and shape the curriculum to meet this. I also wrote on how important it is to help students realize what type of a learner they are so that they themselves can better shape their own learning. It did, and will continue to fall on deaf ears.
Average. Its why we are where we are as a country. Exceeding expectations used to be average. Its not anymore. We’ve forgotten how to succeed because no emphasis is placed on success anymore. If the average person spent less time being average, then being average wouldn’t be so damn mediocre.
I work to improve myself for me. That much is obvious as just as I am typing this my boss relayed a story to me of someone asking about me, ending with the quote of “didn’t he get a degree? Wasn’t he going to do something with himself?” Ahh the pitfalls of no one knowing that you are a writer who’s first book broke the 3000 mark ranking out of millions of other offerings. A book that you wrote in the few free minutes you have from helping run a successful company in an economic depression, but because my name’s not on the door… and believe me, I don’t want it to be. Being the third in line at a privately owned business has shown me I want nothing to do with ungrateful employees, inept Unions, incompetent suppliers, and more government paperwork, restrictions and liability than you know what to do with. My boss took over for his father when he was my age now. His hair turned gray, then completely white, in the first eight months.
I want to become more refined and intelligent as I get older and not say screw it, I’ve put in my time so its ok to become a cranky old guy that sits in a dirty apartment and yells at his cats.
Average should not be good enough.