Last night, the clouds vomited some freezing rain, and now it’s been reduced to a slushy, white residue mixed with salt that leaves a mess at your front door. It’s so overcast that the sky doesn’t appear to be cloudy at all. It just looks like one solid layer of gray. If one of Harry Reid’s Martians visited, they wouldn’t know the sky was blue. To make matters worse, I’m completely out of sugar for my coffee, so I’m forced to suck my caffeine out of an antioxidant-infused soda I bought over break. If you think this day couldn’t get much worse, you’re wrong. It’s the first day of the semester, which means that I had to drag my bleary eyes out of bed this morning so my professors could read the syllabus to everyone and then tell us to leave.
I still am not entirely sure why professors assume everyone is illiterate on the first day of classes. They certainly don’t seem to maintain that belief throughout the course of the semester, so it doesn’t make much sense that they predictably and consistently suspend their entire ideology to stand up at the front of the room and yammer on about the department’s grading and late policies instead of just starting the course, for God’s sake. Quite frankly, I’d prefer to just have a few extra days of break and then get started on the first chapter on the first day. Maybe then people would actually bother to pay attention. Because absolutely no one cares about the syllabus. And no one listens to what the professor has to say about it.
Still, on this tired day of syllabus-dissecting, I think students everywhere are in need of a reminder. Be grateful for your education. It should be a human right, but sadly, in this world, it’s a privilege. Education is not something everybody has access to, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. I don’t mean to get preachy here. Not everyone wants or needs a college degree. Not everyone values education like me and the whole lot of stuffy academics.
But I digress; It is surprisingly easy to fail to appreciate education. Most people in the process are busy attending to it every day, and it transforms into an endless list of papers and lectures and exams. The rest gets lost. Think of it this way: You’re only grateful for clear sinuses until just after a nasty cold. And like many college students, I’ve been diligently going to school each year since kindergarten (about fifteen straight years now). My metaphorical sinuses have been clear for a long, long time. So it’s easy for me to forget that college, and education in general, gives you a chance to learn how to think for yourself, and to more effectively evaluate information, from health trends to politics to literature.
It goes a little something like this. I, (as you may have noticed) am highly skilled in bullshitting. I can write something that sounds really smart, and appears to be logical. I can force connections like gravity forces shit to the ground. And while this sounds like a complete waste of time, I must admit that an infinite amount of last-minute papers helped develop this skillset. I can now quickly write professional sounding scholarship essays, and I’ve even successfully BS-ed my way through cover letters and job interviews. (I keep the blog real, though.) But the most important skill that’s surfaced from all this nice-sounding but logically terrible writing is an acute bullshit detector. That’s right. Never bullshit a bullshitter. I have developed an eye for faulty logic. Big words fail to intimidate me; I’ve been the sleep-deprived author hiding behind long, stuffy words. I know how to look past them and trace the logic, or lack thereof. My reaction to BS published or just plain spewed in the real world is a knowing smile. I don’t believe you, I’ll think to myself, because that is exactly the kind of shit I would pull.
Of course, I’m in no way encouraging bullshitting papers, (don’t do it) or proclaiming them the pinnacle of modern education (they’re not). I’m merely celebrating an edge that my educational career has inadvertently provided me.
Education’s benefits do not end at learning how to effectively make shit up. I couldn’t possibly list each and every advantage to education, nor disadvantage. Apparently, there is a subtle difference between a blog post and a five-hundred paged book. I’ve had teachers and professors that have inspired me, ones that have tweaked my world view, and, honestly, ones that have taught me how to work with difficult and demanding authority figures. Through school, I learned to be gritty, and to try again. These are easy sentiments to echo vacantly in failure’s angry, sobering face, but are hard to put in practice.
Degrees give you a leg up in the world; they help you get a good job so you can get good pay and dutifully live out your adult life script of joining the work force, working, marrying, continuing to work, spawning, continuing to work, working some more, retiring, doing whatever it is that retired people do all day, and then dying. (Which I don’t think is a bad life at all.) But education gives you something more. Education gives you a spark. It lets you deconstruct arguments, good and bad, and helps you make better decisions. About who to vote for. What to buy at the store. How to be a good leader. It challenges conventional wisdom. It indulges your philosophical inquiries. It opens you up to ideas you’ve never heard before, and people and lifestyles that were once completely unknown to you. It’s hard to find places with more passionate people than college. Most professors and lecturers and researchers have gone through countless years of schooling to get where they are, and they’re not getting paid nearly enough to do their jobs, namely teaching and researching. They’re essentially educating the next generation while simultaneously advancing schools of thought and solving complex problems, and all they get for it is a tiny office that seems like it was originally intended to be a closet or a laundry chute.
Just a little food for thought as you ignore your professors and their borderline obsessive syllabus habits. If you’re bearing grayish weather like me, keep your head up. A nap really helps, too, if it makes you feel a little sluggish. (I might know from experience. Like, experience from two hours ago.) And hey, good news: I think the caffeine from my soda is finally kicking in. Here’s to better weather, education, and shitty first days.
But what about you? Is it your first day of college? How’s the weather? Do your professors obsess about syllabi too? Let me know in the comments down below. If you are a human being (or one of Harry Reid’s Martians) like this article and follow my lovely blog. Or don’t. I’m not your mom or whatever.