Homework and exams can only do so much
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 2013
Mark Twain once said, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”
As I round into the latter-half of my two-year program, this quote resonates more than ever. Sometimes I get so focussed on grades and assignments that I forget the whole reason I signed up for college in the first place. After all, I’m attending post-secondary for the same reason everybody else is: to achieve my full potential in a career of my choice. But when an opportunity knocks, what choice do I really have?
The education system can only teach me so much before I become disinterested and start to reject the content. Nay, it’s just my inability to retain it. I sit through lectures, I jot down notes, and go through the classroom motions until I’m released once again with a list of readings, several assignments, a scheduled exam, and project deadlines. Unsure of what I’m getting out of it, I feel overwhelmed and anxious.
People tell me to pay my dues, but trudging along learning something that will be forgotten or never applied feels like a complete waste. Public schools and general studies are just that—general. Catering to the masses and focussing on a few, schooling may often feel like the instructor is teaching to another student while you sit idly by waiting for some relevant content to spark your interest. Sure, with a little luck, we’ll end up with that piece of paper honouring our completion—but is it worth the price?
I say build your own curriculum and don’t just follow schooling. Classrooms and lecture halls can only do so much. In preparing for the real world, it’s important, nay, critical to experience the real world. Don’t just get a part-time job at a local restaurant if you’re studying law. Strive for something in your field and don’t fall for the trap of convenient work. I understand that those opportunities are hard to come by and jobs are incredibly competitive, but take the chance. You’ll learn more interning at a firm than you would serving drinks, or even cramming for an exam.
Volunteering may seem like offering free labour, but if you think that then what do you think homework is? Being an unpaid helper shows the public that you care about your craft, that you’re willing to take time out of your busy schedule to learn, and that money isn’t the priority. Volunteering is a terrific way to network and meet future employers, regardless of the volunteering circumstances. By surrounding yourself with people of the same professional interests, you can gain knowledge and inspirational fuel.
Travelling is the best and only way to see the world. You’ll learn more about yourself sitting at a bus terminal halfway around the world than you would sitting in a two-hour lecture about global economics. Didn’t get the course you wanted? Instead of spending your money on meeting your post-secondary credit quota, book a trip. Tuition comes in many forms and that means education does as well.
Just because you are in school, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn outside of it. Workplace preparation is more than exams and homework. It never hurts to be an all-around interesting person.