After our final this afternoon I asked one of my students,
How did your semester go?
His disappointing answer was,
I don’t know yet, nobody’s turned in final grades yet.
A few minutes later I was in a campus office where a staff mom was telling me about her high school senior son’s big boating competition this weekend. They were traveling up to some lake for a solar powered boat competition. Her son and his team had spent months building a solar power system, batteries to charge, and a motor to drive. They CNC milled the steering wheel of the boat. Regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s competition, this is an incredible victory.
- A college student had to wait for a numerical printout from a bureaucratic headquarters to know what the value of the last 4 months of his life had been.
- A high school student, before the race results, already knew the satisfaction of tackling a major project and working with a team to overcome all obstacles and complete their project.
There’s an old movie about police helicopters in Los Angeles called Blue Thunder. The film includes a discussion about measuring one’s sanity in which the late Warren Oats riposts,
What do you use to measure yours, a dip stick?
To some degree, this is what college has become, not an intrinsic experience of achieving meaningful project goals, but a detached, out of body experience where you work for 4 months at a time, only to wait for Brotman Hall (the administration building at Long Beach State) to read some academic dip stick and tell you how successful or not your last 4 months has been.
Can you think of a more hollow, detached, meaningless college experience!?
No wonder some students would rather be anywhere but here.
How did we allow a quest for knowledge to become an obsession over intrinsically meaningless points and grades?
How do we pull back from this precipice of meaninglessness to rediscover the value and power of a college experience? How do we move past our obsession with points and grades and on to a focus on meaningful projects, the celebration of successes, and the analysis of failures?
How do we make college fun again?