I have been a student for a long time, with statuses ranging from part-time, full-time, time off and overtime.
Many professors have stood before me, and I have stood before many professors. Some of them were good, some bad and a small minority were absolutely brilliant. Throughout this process of enlightenment, one factor has always held true—my complicity in the outcome.
As students, our level of participation in lectures, our outside research, staying after class to discuss concerns and the pressure we exert upon educators in quest of mastery and understanding of class material is what helps make the bad ones good and the good ones great.
Perhaps more importantly is how this behavior works to promote an atmosphere of learning by helping classmates feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their perspectives. Conversely, our apathy contributes to letting the great educators only be good and sometimes letting the good ones go bad while also working to oppress our overall learning potential.
Though we all stand as individual human beings, in a classroom, we tend to become social mirrors when in reality we should be more like windows. I did not always look at it this way, but with experience and maturity, I began to truly grasp just how privileged I was to have the opportunity to study at an American university and decided to pull up my blinds and make the most of my time in the classroom.
Early on, education is so compulsory that it becomes onerous. In high school, an orthodox curriculum is beat into your head in spite of the many unspeakable contradictions often found at the homes of friends, on television and through direct interaction with society.
Upon coming to college, the unspeakable became the active discourse, and that is when I and many other students who disliked high school began to thrive.
I have seen some of the weakest high school students become shining stars, while others—seemingly brain-washed—are unable to snap out of it. People are scared to be critical of themselves, their peers, their curriculum, their teachers, corporations and governmental institutions. They fear after-school detention, being labeled something undesirable, being locked up in a gulag, hurting feelings or losing friends. The bottom line is that they fear something—I know I did.
Next time, before going on ratemyprofessors.com to bash a professor, think about what you brought to the table as a student. Teachers, before labeling your students and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, think about how responsive you are to student concerns, both the spoken and the mirrored. Make it clear that criticism is welcome and that concerns should be addressed, even if it makes your job a little harder.
The ability to be critical and share our unique perspectives is what has helped America become so great. It is at the heart of our system of checks and balances, the fuel of competitive drive and the sunlight upon the soil housing the seeds of innovation and creativity. It is what has promoted justice and liberty for all.