Although I am on the A.B. track and thus have a different course load, I can easily relate to my friend’s problem. Often, feeling as if I am drowning in readings and papers, I have to remind myself that the quest to scholarship makes everything well worth it. I too have to remember that I love learning.
In telling myself this, I continue the string of one-sided conversations and think, “I actually do love learning … So where is that feeling when I’m actually doing my work?” Of course, I don’t expect to feel warm and fuzzy while reading about the history of an ancient civilization and its ramifications for broken global relations today. I definitely don’t feel butterflies when I’m doing a problem set on finding the incidence of a government-levied tax. But sometimes, I would like to feel attachment to my studies rather than a sense of wearied accomplishment after making my way through an unreasonable length of text before it’s due.
In the end, it makes me wonder if what I’m doing here is, in fact, learning.
Coming to college, I didn’t have very many preconceived notions because I did not truly know what to expect. I did not expect to reenact the photo in all the college pamphlets, the one with a class of 12 or so students and their professor out on a lawn, staring intently at one another as they discuss some complex, grandiose idea. It’s good that I did not have these expectations because I have never seen this on campus. But I also did not expect the opposite structure of learning — walking into a seminar, or more likely, a lecture, in which a professor bombards you with facts and figures and for which you trudge through tedious assignments in the pursuit of a solid grade. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
To be fair, I can’t say this has been the makeup of all of my courses. But I’ve experienced this structure — and have seen my friends experience it — enough times to be disgruntled. Moreover, this issue is also exacerbated for freshmen: We enter college and quickly panic at the sight of everyone else’s seemingly put-togetherness. So instead of exploring courses for personal desire or curiosity’s sake, we enroll in courses to begin fulfilling prerequisites and distribution requirements immediately — courses that are typically large lectures. This can create unhappiness with course materials and entire subjects, both because we take courses we think are necessary for ends we may not even want and because of presentation of material.
Obviously, it would be unrealistic to always learn by the “precept–turned–intellectual–kum-ba-yah” method. I feel this form of learning encapsulates more of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. However, in order to use newfound knowledge and to apply it to future careers, to be in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations, the “lather, rinse, repeat” structure is necessary. Because, of course, only through practice can we learn how to find tax incidence; only through readings can we learn about the history of any civilization.
But I think it’s impossible to truly retain and revel in new information if a university does not constantly endorse both systems. Both strict presentation and regurgitation of facts and exploration of new material in a purer sense are necessary. The problem is striking the right balance, which is tantamount to enjoying the academic experience at any college.
With the added pressure of applying everything that we’ve learned to a single goal after graduation, whether it be grad school, a career or field work, we often forget that there is an actual learning process in which we can participate and even, dare I say it, enjoy.
Because remembering to enjoy it — remembering that you love learning — is the fundamental basis of all that we’re doing at Princeton. You cannot be passionate about effecting change and you cannot boast of this “intellectual curiosity” everyone here is so keen to speak of unless you are inspired by what you are learning.
Lea Trusty is a freshman from Saint Rose, La. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Reader Comments (0)
No comments yet. Be the first to post your opinion on this article.