Tag Archives: learning



Photo Credit: Esther Mae Wilcoxson

I understand that stress is a normal/needed biological reaction, but doesn’t it seem a little ridiculous to you that our body has the same reaction to schoolwork as it does to being chased by a bear?

I go to great lengths to decrease the level of stress in my life. I take a lighter course load even if it means I stay in college well nigh forever. I miss the hippest parties so I can recharge after a busy week. Unchecked stress causes both physical and mental illness for me, and the trade-off isn’t worth it.

Still. Being in college means that stress is inevitable. It swims in softly, circles around me, threatening, until dead week due-dates approach and it clamps down on my abdomen with its cold spiky teeth.

(In my head I imagine stress as looking somewhat like an angler fish.)

“It’s just a test,” I tell myself. “I could get a B. Or even a C. It wouldn’t really matter. I’d still graduate.”

But the angler fish seems immune to logic, and it never swims away until the tests are over and the slap-dash assignments are handed in.

So here’s a question: Is stress at school inevitable? Or are we doing it wrong?

I have several rants that are constantly simmering in my head, ready to boil over if anyone says a trigger word. This is one of them:

WHY is success in college measured by how much effort you put in instead of how much you actually learn?

College students are supposed to put in 2 hours of homework for every 1 hour of class time. Why is this? Who decided that this was a good idea?

In college, I’ve had a few classes that didn’t just teach me things, they fundamentally altered how I viewed the world and humanity. One of them was a history class at Linn Benton. I loved it so much I immediately signed up the next term for another history class from the same teacher. Another was a population geography class I took this term.

But here’s the thing: These classes were not stressful. They had almost no homework. In fact, the other day I realized that even though I took them at different colleges, the classes were structured almost identically:

  1. A short, relatively easy quiz every two weeks
  2. A discussion every week on something we’d talked about in class, with the scoring based more on scope of thought than on following a specific formula
  3. A bit of in-class work
  4. No final exam

So here’s a parting question: If learning and stress are not directly proportional, why do schools treat them like they are? Why is there an assumption that more homework = more learning?


Why I am in College

Every once in a while, a professor will ask, “why are you in college?”

The students always answer, “To get a better job. To get more money.”

Recently I realized with a giggle that I am going to college in order to become poor. Despite my writing ambitions I am quite resigned to the fact that I will end up as a poor missionary wearing second-hand clothing and stocking my kitchen with ugly plastic missionary barrel cast-offs.

My sociology professor this term was talking about dead end jobs. I always thought of a dead end job as just being a really boring low-paying job, but no. A dead-end job is one in which there is no way for you to move forward, and to work your way up.

So what do you think about dead-end lives?

I once wrote a post about college called Women and Higher Education, in which I was very much for women going to college. When I first went to college I realized that there was no need for me to have a dead-end life. I could learn more, and push myself, and work towards something.

Of course there was something that I failed to mention in that post which a lot of people pointed out in the comments. Namely, there are ways to learn and grow and keep yourself from a dead-end life without going to college.

I should also point out that many, if not most, of the people I meet in college are themselves in a dead-end life. What if you are in college, not to learn, but to scrape by in hopes of getting a job you like that pays you a lot of money? Is that sort of like trying to do the minimal required to be a Christian so as to avoid Hell, without really having a hunger and a desire to know God and to be with Him?


Disclaimer: I am single. I have never had to support or help support a family. Therefore, I have a somewhat clouded view of the importance of money, I am sure.

But. In some ways, I view beauty as my currency of choice.

There is sunshine and flowers. There is a life waiting for me where I can have tea with prostitutes and paint a pink elephant on the wall of an orphanage. There is a place where I can learn how societies work, how the industrial revolution shaped the western world, how to write effective argument. Still, I sit next to people who are thinking of dollars and cents, and are basing their lives around getting more of those green-inked notes.

On Easter morning I wanted to go to a sunrise service, but I couldn’t find one. So I decided to get up at 6:00 and go watch the sunrise, just me and God.

I was tired. The clouds were up, and I didn’t see much sun rising action at all. But it was so beautiful, the fields and the solitude and the crisp air, pink-tinged sky, and Him.

I thought about what I owe God, for what He did for me on that first Easter morning when he conquered death. I thought, “do I only serve God because I owe Him?”

I didn’t like that thought. I thought there must be something more.

And then, in that sleepy surreal moment, I burst into tears. “I just want to see Your beauty,” I said.

That, I think, sums it up. It’s not just about getting to Heaven to see God’s beauty, but finding all the reflections of His beauty on earth. Seeing Jesus in people, looking at the sky, receiving by giving. College is the place where I grow, where I learn, where there are people who need Him, and where I can prepare for a life on the mission field.

That is why I am in college.