I’m currently in the process of registering for classes at my university. It sucks.
I’m a freshman, so I have no priority, and I’m okay with that. I spent the last four years working my way up the academic ladder and acquiring as much priority as possible. I have become accustomed to being at the top of the food chain, but I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to sit at the bottom. I remember having an awful freshman schedule in high school, I’m sure it won’t be much different in college.
That something I hate about traditional education. The idea that I have to wait two to three years to just be able to do what I want to do and learn what I want to learn is ridiculous. I could teach myself everything a professor could teach me. Would it take more time? Probably, but I would have the power to become educated on whatever I want at any time.
It frustrates me how inefficient the system is. I go through my university’s Facebook group and look at how frustrated the students are. We are expressing a consensus that this procedure is flawed, yet they have claimed that it is the best they can do. It reminds me a lot of the concept of democracy, they are both the best worst system out there. I refuse to accept either of these ideas, as I feel they are taking “good enough” which isn’t good enough, not for me.
For now, I’m hoping to take a first-year seminar. I only have one shot to register for a seminar class, so I’m going to get one in. I hope McGill might take a look at their registration system in the future and address the flaws instead of shying away from them.
I went to my best friends graduation today. 363 other seniors walked the stage with her, all in a perfect shade of evergreen. The girls’ high heels faded in and out as they moved closer and farther from the microphone, almost like the drumbeat of a military march.
The students filed in, directed by underclassmen, as though they couldn’t find their way to their assigned seats. I’ve always thought graduation and commencement ceremonies were ironic. Students are finally being set free from an institution that has assessed them from the moment they had any semblance of thought. It is ironic that their last act as a student is to walk into yet another regimented performance and gush about how wonderful the previous four years of their life had been.
You see, I moved away from this particular school district five years ago. I couldn’t help but feel a pang of hurt watching all of my old friends gather to celebrate their accomplishments. I also felt a pang knowing that these people had gone through the same pain I had suffered in high school. They stood at a podium and thanked their teachers, the people who had executed their torture and accepted checks for it. This may sound cynical, but I think all teachers know how wrong the system is, regardless of what they say. It’s just a matter of time before they realize that we’re herded like cattle.
This was the 118th graduating class of this school. 118 groups of students had gone through the same procession. Their individuality, creativity, and achievements all being grouped under Class of XXXX. All of their individual accomplishments are dispersed among the rest of their students under the umbrella that is their class. But just like many other western institutions, we value humility and generosity in all aspects of our lives. The school system has taken that to mean sharing efforts, even if the work to achieve them wasn’t.
When you’re sitting in a business lounge in Belgium drinking a decent cappuccino, you wonder about a lot of things. You wonder if you need a college degree to sip a cappuccino in Belgium while waiting for your flight to Senegal. You wonder why you’re in Belgium, why you’re going to Senegal, why anything you are trying to accomplish should be accomplished right now. Is this the right time to be on the bleeding edge?
Lately, I’ve been thinking about mistakes and their relationship to freedom. The famous quote goes “if you’re not free to make a mistake, you’re not free at all.” I think the mistakes I might be making scare people in my life. In history, there is a pattern of threats being made on national security and personal freedoms being limited because of that. Individual liberties are all we have in times of crisis. That is why war continues, why innocent people are always dying, why we can never seem to be entirely at peace.
So yes, I am in Belgium, I will be in Senegal soon. I want to continue to do work that doesn’t require a degree because this work has been what I enjoy the most so far. I am pushing against a system that has indoctrinated almost everyone I care for, and they are beginning to push back harder. I wonder how the next few months will go.
On Saturday, after I walk down some red carpet in my cap and gown and sit down in my assigned seat, I will read my dedications. Dedications that are very personal to me, stuff that I wouldn’t want people to read or hear before graduation. However, there is this massive fear within the teachers that the seniors will say something they wouldn’t want to hear. So, I have to send a copy of my dedications to my advisor, who will then approve them and provide them for me to read on Saturday.
But this system is flawed. What is going to stop me from writing some general dedication speech and then ignoring it when I get to the podium? Nothing would prevent me from saying exactly what I want to say. These measures of approval to keep us in check until the very end just remind me that they don’t really have any control over us. They never did.
“There will be consequences.” the director said to us. “You won’t be allowed to speak at graduation until we see your dedications.” Consequences, what an interesting concept. I wondered at that moment if it would be better to not give them my dedications. I didn’t want to get up on stage and pour my heart out in front of people that imprisoned me for four years of my life. To pretend I am grateful for the circus act they made me perform. Suddenly, it all seemed very unimportant. The only thing that matters is that my diploma is in my hand by the end of it.
I only thanked people I am genuinely grateful for. My dedications are short and sincere, but they highlight those who supported me the most. That’s all that matters.
I am only just graduating on Saturday, so a lot of my life is still consumed by what happens within my school, primarily because of how tiny it is. We have less than 60 students, and the number continues to drop. Our enrollment used to spread across three cities and four villages within three counties, but we have lost a lot of our farther reaching students due to a weak administration.
That is usually what issues within public funded settings boil down to – the administration. I’ve come to loathe the idea of a vague but omnipresent “administration.” Always watching, always doing something wrong, always waiting for you to do something wrong so they can blame it on you. Administrations don’t like to take the fault for their mistakes because they know there are too many to warrant forgiveness. I understand the apprehension, but I would never bring myself to condone it.
The administration I deal with is small and underfunded, but I think those are relative terms. Despite the possibility of those difficulties being genuine, I hate excuses. I hate having to use them, and I hate having to hear them. I think an excuse is much worse than just saying “I’m sorry, I’ll have it to you by next week.” Excuses are a pathetic way of asking for pity where pity is undoubtedly not due. There are rare occasions where extreme explanations for a lack of work are reasonable, but it is uncommon.
Administration, bureaucracy, your boss, whatever you would call this level of authority, recognize that it has unnecessary and unjust power. I have two days to stand up to mine, so I need to figure out how to stir the pot one last time.
I am fortunate to have some truly incredible people in my life. When I met my mentor, I had no idea how important or influential of a person he was. However, I think if I had, I wouldn’t have dared to ask for his help. After I finished the project I needed to complete for graduation, I lost contact with him for a little while. He would sometimes tag me in things he thought relevant to my interests, but it would be months before we had an actual conversation again.
I reached out to him recently. Summer is approaching rapidly, and I had decided to give this writing thing a go, but I realized I would need something to write about. I wanted some work that would help me build up my portfolio, so I messaged him. I asked if he had any projects I could work on or people he could connect me with and we arranged for a phone call the following weekend.
He offered me several opportunities to work, all of which were incredibly interesting and inventive. I was immediately taken aback by the complexity of the projects. He seemed to genuinely want my help with programs that appeared far beyond my comprehension (they’re not, but it felt like they were.) Perhaps I had read the conversation wrong, but I couldn’t help but be happy with the level of trust he still had in me. As I said earlier, we had not spoken in a substantial amount of time, so this level of respect felt unwarranted. After the call was over, I had some exciting future work and a new question – what is it that makes me wonder if I am deserving of respect?
I think there are many reasons I may feel as though I am not as deserving of respect as others, but the primary cause is my age. Twelve years of public education has given me this idea that I am too young, too naive, too inexperienced to receive any kind of genuine esteem. I see why so many young people are afraid to initiate conversations, to speak highly of themselves, and to seek out opportunities.
The quote in the header of my blog, “If you never ask, the answer will always be no,” is something I believe in but have only started living by recently. At the time, the act of messaging my mentor was a source of anxiety. I am barely beginning to understand how valuable my skills are, but disregarding the idea that I don’t deserve or have respect is helping.