Column: Spending Time Wisely
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 23:02
Every one of my classes contains at least one disinterested student. These scholars spend the entire period aimlessly surfing the Internet or hunching over their smartphones. I have no personal objections to these people—without them I would have never discovered Sporcle and 9gag, two wonderful and devilishly distracting websites. I had a sudden epiphany last week, however, while observing one student meticulously read ESPN articles for a full 75 minutes. The class in question has no attendance policy, and the student was clearly not taking notes or even paying attention. So, why was he there?
During my Capstone class last semester I read Journey Into Adulthood, a University-commissioned study of student life at BC. It divides the BC experience into three dimensions: intellectual, social, and spiritual. While reading, I began to think that the intellectual dimension matters least in the long term. I have talked to BC alumni who met their future spouses, business partners, or lifelong friends while they were undergraduates. When my brother, a BC alum, and his college buddies tailgated at my Mod before the Notre Dame game, they swapped stories about old friends and parties, not former classes and professors. Bill Simmons, a popular sportswriter, explained that in college he was an avid political science major who took multiple courses on Middle East relations, and now can’t even identify Iraq and Iran on a map. Unless a degree directly correlates to post-graduate jobs, like for pre-med students, its importance will fade over time.
Upon further reflection though, I backed away from this overly pessimistic view of the intellectual dimension. One of my roommates has never voluntarily skipped a class, because he legitimately argues it would be foolish to pay a five-figure tuition to enroll in classes you don’t even attend. As an English major, he is also fond of lengthy soliloquies in which he eloquently and at times pretentiously extols the virtues of a liberal arts education. He argues that its purpose is not vocational training for a job, but rather a multi-faceted study of the human condition. As a freshman simultaneously taking political theory and philosophy courses, I felt the same way. Plato and Kant may not appear in a law firm job interview, but this does not make their writings any less important. Sitting in the back row of Gasson classrooms, I would dream that my studies could unlock the keys to the meaning of life and ideal form of governance.
This overly idealist dream I dreamed was dashed to pieces sophomore year when I foolishly crammed all my core requirements into two hellish semesters. Picking my senior classes while abroad, however, renewed my appreciation of the intellectual dimension of BC classes. For my fall semester, I was blessed with a completed core and nearly complete major requirements, as well as the absolute first pick time. Literally every Arts and Science class was open to me. Less than one percent of the world obtains an undergraduate degree, and less than one percent of that already miniscule group attends an elite top 50 university. Social and spiritual growth are not strictly limited to BC students, but the school’s exemplary intellectual environment is.
Coming full circle, my advice to the disinterested classmate is this: don’t go to class. Your tuition fee pays for the BC experience, not just classes and textbooks. As a second semester senior, I can assure you that the four-year BC experience flies by shockingly quickly: I didn’t even discover Addie’s until a few weeks ago. BC has an incredible academic faculty, but if you don’t care enough to pay attention in class, spend your time exploring the social or spiritual dimensions of BC. ESPN will be there when you get back.