7 April, 2011
Talk to Me: Breaking the Ice
As a college student still fresh from high school, I recognize how easily we younger individuals can be led to think that we are solitary in our efforts to climb up the educational ladder. Just two years ago, I thought I wanted to be a professional writer. I even took advanced placement courses in English literature, language and composition in my high school junior and senior year; then I became acquainted with personal computers and became engrossed with the technology behind them. Adding to the flaws of the young, I suppose you could also say that we are too ambiguous. Nevertheless, the fact remains that I selfishly never thought of my fellow classmates, who were undoubtedly in similar situations, as people I could confide in academically. Not even once. Now, if nothing else, my high school recollections provide me with some insight into the problems with the current educational system. In particular, one uncomfortable experience from my past comes into remembrance. In another attempt to gain some writing experience and have some fun in the process, I joined my high school writing club with genuine optimism. What I did not know at the time was that I would be the only male student participating; roughly half a dozen girls that I barely knew comprised of this group I so enthusiastically entered. As for the club’s academic discussions, at times speaking with the rest of them was like trying to communicate with an alien culture. For some reason, I possessed an uncanny knack of disagreeing with the ideas of my female cohorts. It seemed that I was quite literally the “odd man out,” and at the time, I felt the conversations over our assigned articles only served to increase feelings of isolation. On the contrary, I now believe I was more a part of the club during the times I argued with those girls than when I obediently agreed with them; I see now that there are many similar classrooms out there lacking meaningful communication amongst teachers and peers. Fortunately, for individuals out there carrying their own respective differences of opinion, meaningful communication does not always involve getting along with each other. Sometimes, it even demands mutual disagreement. When the girls of the writing club and I questioned each other’s judgment in our discussions, we unknowingly took part in collaborative learning, which demands critical thought amongst grouped individuals. We worked together, even if it seemed that we were only being pitted against each other. Without differing perspectives and therefore conflicting opinion, nothing truly meaningful or lasting can be learned; social conformity in our schools simply does not stimulate thoughtfulness or creativity. A lack of meaningful communication in today’s classrooms encourages shallower thinking and short-term, performance based learning. Although independent thinking requires people with differing perspectives to speak aloud their ideas, few are willing to do so in college classrooms. Why would they be? I did not know my other writing club members well enough to call them friends, but it was not like they were unfamiliar; we had attended the same high school for at least two to three years prior. Moreover, we were roughly of the same age and temperament. In college classrooms, however, students are often introduced to each other as complete strangers of varying age, ethnicity, personality, etc. Not many people would be confident in revealing their ideas in front of unfamiliar people, and so usually the first few days in many college courses are spent in mutual silence and suffering. Few students in this situation would be willing to take the lead and speak out, and it is also doubtful that anyone else would care to listen if their every thought hanged from their teacher’s words and actions. So, classroom...