The case for the informed and worldly student - Macleans.ca

The case for the informed and worldly student

One of the most important things you can learn at university is that a world, beyond university, exists

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First off, let me say that I can’t believe there’s a case undermining the value of the informed and worldly student.

Wait, I take that back. Since I know I shouldn’t put words in other people’s mouths, and probably can’t accurately do so, I’ll refrain from trying altogether.

Some of my recent posts have apparently elicited some head-scratching. Why are you talking about provincial budgets? Media ethics? Why does this concern me? What does it have to do with post-secondary education?

Well, my answer is quite simple:

Nothing.

I could make some absurd connection about the effects tobacco lawsuits will have on provincial university grants, but I think students deserve more credit than that. Besides, I’d rather not preface my posts with “you should care about this because…” or “what this means for you as a student is…”

Jeff Rybak makes the point that “student” is an identity. For him, perhaps it is. However, I know lots of students who coast through their university years feeling no connection to their school, student union or peers. True, they’re united in their debt and coffee-addictions, but I think I’ll remain relativistic when it comes to “identity assignment.” Just because we share similar experiences doesn’t mean we all define ourselves the same way. I’ll let the individual define him/herself.

I perceive my “student status” as a temporary one. Yes, I’m a student, and yes, I’m concerned about student issues. But I’m also Canadian, female, pro-choice, anti-cell phone at the dinner table, etc.; it’s my collection of different hats that make me who I am. Right now I’m immersed in a world of academia, somewhat sheltered from the harsh realities of the real world but accelerating quickly towards post-post-secondary life where I can’t complain to my faculty adviser when things don’t go my way. Straddling these two worlds allows me the privilege of time, resources and encouragement to read and learn about the world around me. Students are taught the latest social theories and scientific breakthroughs; why should we think about them only in abstract terms? Why not apply them to what’s going on in the world today?

I have to admit, some of the reactions to my posts got me scratching my head. Wait… doesn’t the University of Toronto Students’ Union have a campaign against water bottles? Didn’t the Canadian Federation of Students BC call for public transit reforms? What do these initiatives have to do with post-secondary education? Sure, I could draw a connection if I really wanted to, but isn’t that beside the point?

Then—I got it. AHA! I’m not blogging about the popular student issues; the ones the “powers that be” have deemed  worthy of student attention. That makes much more sense. After all, the issue of political advertising ethics can’t seduce a crowd quite like “sustainability” written on a poster board.

Back to my earlier point. I’m not trying to suggest that being a student doesn’t mean anything, but just that it doesn’t mean everything. I’m a student, yes, but only for a little while. And during that “little while” I’m fortunate enough to hear lectures about the latest and greatest sociological (and other) theories in my lectures. So I’m going to think about them when I read the paper, and maybe blog about them after. If you don’t like what I write, or find my posts irrelevant, feel free to click over to another blogger.

But perhaps better yet, think about where you come from—your ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, political affiliations, what you’ve learned in class—and debate me on the issues. That’s what the comment section is for, after all. Like I’ve said before, I think one of the most important things you can learn at university is that there exists a world beyond university. So, let’s talk about it.