Wednesday, August 13, 2008

5 Myths that cause students unnecessary stress.

Over at Study Hacks They've got a good essay on college workload and your major.

MYTH #1: Your Major Matters
MYTH #2: The Difficulty of Your Courses Matters
MYTH #3: Your Extracurricular Activities Matter
MYTH #4: Impressiveness is a Function of Hardness
MYTH #5: You Can Plan Your Future Career

I would extend this down to the high school level in many cases. Many students are burning themselves out trying to impress college admissions officers with their 32 extra-curriculars, 12 Honors courses and 6 AP courses, 1200 hours of community service.

Speaking mostly to the juniors and seniors who have electives to choose:

Chill, people. If you find you enjoy serving in the soup kitchen, then by all means do it and do it often and do it well. If it's just to satisfy some inane graduation requirement, then stop immediately after you have completed the requirement and go do something you like.

If you are joining honors classes to get out of the one-size-fits-all CP class with all the idiots, then make sure you don't become the idiot in the honors class. If you're willing to work at something too hard for you, that's okay as long as you understand that your grade isn't necessarily going to be very good -- it was never a reflection of you or your effort but rather a reflection of how much you understand. You might surprise yourself after all. If the AP class is the right fit for you academically, then go for it. Please don't take AP Calculus because it's the "impressive class".

I had four failing students in AP Calc. Two said they disliked math intensely. The two others hadn't gotten above 500 on the SAT math test, "I never do well in Math." My question to them all is "Why subject yourself to a course you don't like for the next 10 months?"

If you don't feel ready and don't want to practice and work enough to succeed, why bother? If you hate the math contest questions, if you don't like exploring math ideas and discovering things new to you mathematically, then why take the hardest math course in school?

Larry Bird used to shoot 300 jump shots per day in his practice sessions. He did the practice because he enjoyed the process, enjoyed the game. If you don't have that enjoyment, then every bit of practice is a chore, every problem is a dreaded task.

If, on the other hand, you enjoy taking a math contest and enjoy the epiphany of the solution, then the time and practice and work is no longer a chore but a joy. I can't tell you what subject that will be for you or where that place is for you. Only you can find it.

If it isn't my math class, then pick something you DO like. I am not going to be offended if you choose art or metal shop or Latin. This is the last time your education is free. Take anything you like and then take more. Why should you take a difficult class that might make you think? Because you CAN and because you like it. A few years from now, you'll be charged $750 for the same class -- take it now for free.

If you find that you only enjoy sitting around watching soaps or playing video games or chatting with IM buddies, then you might want to reconsider how you'll fare in college with far more free time to do such things. Do you have any interests academically or are you following the YMGTC brainwashing that so many are saddled with? Are you truly ready?

You're not choosing my education here, people, nor your parents', the school counselor's, your older math-whiz brother's. It's yours.


"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" asked Alice.
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where -" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"- so long as I get somewhere."
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk far enough."
Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland

"In Spanish there is a word for which I can't find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but does not greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction. Everything in the world must have a design or the human mind rejects it. But in addition, it must have purpose or the human conscience shies away from it."
J. Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

1 comment:

  1. And college math departments would agree with you in the majority, perhaps vast majority, of cases.

    And college admissions people would not.

    Drives me nuts. Sitting in that AP when you shouldn't be? Might help with admissions. Stupid.