I am a Naysayer

Well, it’s been a hot minute, but I’m back. My intention was never to abandon my blog, but instead I got bogged down by perfectionism and lack of time. So, I have decided that from here on out these blogs posts will be a little more free-form. I type. I post. That’s it. Let’s jump right into it.

At the beginning of last term, one of my professors made a comment about “naysayers” in the classroom and how they take up time and energy. In other words, naysayers waste time and are difficult to deal with. As someone who has always been naturally contentious, I was slightly offended by this comment. I could not help but think back to the (countless) times I have challenged my teachers in the classroom with slight embarrassment. Did they just see me as difficult and annoying? Because my intention was always the opposite – I wanted to learn and not just to digest and regurgitate.

Here is the problem that I have encountered in higher education. What are you actually teaching college students? Or better yet, WHY are you teaching your students?

Now, I am majoring in Sociology which is a bit more ambiguous and abstract than say…Statistics. I understand that there is more room for interpretation. This is exactly why I don’t believe teachers should present one perspective as fact. Shouldn’t they be teaching us how to evaluate and analyze things for ourselves? As much as we all like to think we are right all the time and never flawed, there is no one perspective that can accurately encapsulate human behavior…sorry, we are just too complicated and…human. Now, this is not to discredit working sociologists. To even attempt to explain human interaction in a way that can be applied and generalized to mass populations takes a considerable amount of patience and courage. Let alone to present these ideas to fellow intellectuals. I can only imagine. But the reason why the work of renowned sociologists is helpful is because they give us a framework for how we can think about society and not what we should think about society. Not only that, but Sociologists are constantly at odds with each other or building upon another’s work.

Okay, so where am I going with this? I am tired of being taught what to think instead of how to think. Higher education should be a platform by which individuals can learn to think critically. Thinking critically includes thinking about an issue from multiple perspectives AND considering perspectives that you THINK are wrong.

If I what I am learning in a classroom seems to be lacking some sort of support or explanation, I should not be ashamed to speak up and challenge the idea presented. As a professor at a University, why would you discourage students from challenging you? Wouldn’t you want them to?

I understand that it can be disruptive to a classroom to challenge everything. But at the same time, if your lecture and classroom structure leaves little room for feedback and discussion, so students have no choice but to cause some amount of disruption by challenging an idea, then something needs to change.

I want change. I want to look back on my college education and be able to say with pride “that was worth getting into $40,000 dollars of debt.”. Right now, it just seems like everyone is going through the motions. How often do people actually apply their college degree to their work? Not enough. Are students coming out of college as better thinkers and more equipped to work and serve society, or are they getting a piece of paper that helps them earn more in their job?

What are we actually teaching students? And why are we teaching it? Are we becoming lax and lazy about our education? Are we allowing institutions to provide us with less than acceptable education for higher the price?

Sure, it may seem dramatic. But these are questions worth asking. And obviously, this is focusing more on what is lacking than what is being provided. There are plenty of excellent professors, and I have learned a number of invaluable things throughout my education. But, I do think our society is letting education slip to the wayside, and my question is why is this case?

I would love for someone to challenge any of the ideas I have put forth. These are just my raw thoughts, feelings, and opinions on the matter, which I am sure are egregiously erroneous. So please, give me your feedback.