The “pursuit of happiness” isn’t mindless partying – at which my students are experts – but a life of productivity and energy, of fulfilling the potentials of the talents with which each is entrusted, as the Biblical parable goes. Does anyone think that the young man of the post below is fulfilling his potential? This is the right our society should give – to become not merely to be.
This semester I have a few students who don’t hand in work but attend with sufficient regularity that I don’t/can’t drop them. I don’t know what they are doing there. One student e-mailed me from the on-line class, terrified I’d drop her. She could, she said, afford an F; it was being dropped that worried her. So she has continued to mark herself as present each day on-line and not send me any work at all. She has her reasons. She wants to “be” a student – she doesn’t want to “become” one. Maybe she can “afford” it more easily because she doesn’t intend to build on her grades in a junior college but simply say she attended. Maybe she can “afford” it because she isn’t paying for it anyway.
She, like some of my on-site students, acts out a little drama in which they “are” students. This, like too much today, may be cargo cult thinking: hanging around our campus (virtual or real) means their wages will dramatically improve. Perhaps they believe the inflated values our politicians and educators place on college degrees; perhaps they are smart enough to suspect it isn’t the piece of paper but college that will make a difference. They just don’t know what “college” is. Or not. I suspect they are scamming someone – their parents, their government, their insurance companies, or, in some co-enrolled cases, their principals. Take your pick. But I’m wary of being a participant in these dramas, assigned a role they define as “teacher.” I didn’t sign up for some role in a con game.