Know your own ignorance
When I selected my fall classes last semester, I was convinced this year would be different. As a senior, I get the privilege of littering my schedule with 300- and 400-level classes. And while that may mean a more intense workload for me, I also happily anticipated they would be fairly small classes filled with upperclassmen that have gone through enough education to be at least slightly informed. I looked forward to rich discussion and exchanging ideas with my peers. But my assumption was wrong, and as sure as day, the one student that would spoil my expectations sat in the front row of one of my political science courses. The topic of the day was “The Communist Manifesto,” its ideologies and how it applied to our class. Although this student admitted she was not too familiar with the subject, she proceeded to argue passionately against its principles for an extensive amount of time, using irrelevant facts and personal beliefs to support herself. Let me be clear, this column is not about whether Communism is right or wrong. Nor is it about annoyingly over-zealous participation in class. It is about ignorance.
I am more than willing to bet that anyone reading this piece has encountered an individual like this before — highly outspoken, opinionated and brash. But what makes them so nauseating is the fact they are un- or misinformed. It’s always painful to have to sit and bite your lip while someone makes empty arguments with such a sure attitude. You cannot decide whether to pity or resent this person and you eventually end up doing both. Although I have to say, watching my instructor’s expression as he tried to develop the best way to respond was highly entertaining. Fortunately, my classmates were gracious enough to try and inform her that she was missing the point rather than scorning her openly. Still, she persisted and the class turned into a back-and-forth between her and us.
The reason why I’m writing this column is because I feel I’ve been robbed. The class time it took for this girl to express her position and for the teacher to reply could have been filled with something much more productive. My classmates and I had other questions, but because of her insistence, we left class knowing less than what we should have. And what really put the cherry on top was the fact that it put us a bit behind on the syllabus since our instructor could not address all the points he wanted to address. While I could write pages conjecturing what motivated this girl and the many others like her to do the things they do, my main guess is that they attend class with the intention of teaching instead of being taught. Why else would they bother to beat a dead horse? Let me just say this, if you’re going to be a student, be a student. Leave it up to the professor to teach everyone a lesson, and do your job, which is to learn. Sometimes that includes silence, but in all cases it requires listening. And if the class still leaves you with unanswered questions, then that is what office hours were created for. Do not waste the time of your peers, who are paying for the class session and who are here to take away something they never knew or considered before. It is not your role to give them that.
And to the professors who entertain this kind of behavior in their class, I hope you realize you’re not helping. I understand that it’s good for a student to be critical of the things you are teaching them and that you want to encourage deeper thought. However, it is senseless to feed these kinds of student responses like “You’re right in that aspect but …” or “I see you point but …” No, if they are wrong, tell them they are wrong. If they are missing the point, they need to know. If they’re not learning what they need to learn, then you’re not fulfilling your role as an educator. I know that if I were saying something silly, ignorant or completely incorrect, I’d want someone to tell me.
I want to make it clear that this person was by no means uneducated. But it was evident she knew little about Communism past what she’s heard from the media or her high school social studies classes. She even admitted how much she didn’t know. But considering this fact, she should know better than go off on such pointless tangents. I applaud her for being able to form an opinion and vehemently support it. That’s not an easy feat. But please, and I say this to everyone, if you aren’t familiar with a certain topic spare us the dialogue and open your ears.
Kristine Rosette Enerio is a School of Arts and Sciences senior double majoring in journalism and media studies and political science. She is the news editor of The Daily Targum.