Confessions of a Student

By: Irwin Leventer  |  November 16, 2017

I do it. I have for years now, I still do, and I am most certain that I will continue to. People explain to me that I should not be wasting my time. Part of me wants to listen to them, but most of me wants to continue with what I am used to. It may end up hurting me, or at least not getting me where I aim to be, yet I insist on being obdurate and unchanging.

The reason I read my textbooks, while it may not be the most productive thing to do as far as my GPA is concerned, is that I am enthralled by this world and I want to know all that I can about it. My textbooks are filled with thousands of lines of intrigue. Already written and waiting to be discovered are what we know of the ways of the world, body, mind, our fellow humans, and on and on. All of it is already released and ready for the binge-watch of the century on a quiet library floor.

All of this excitement is bound up with a catch. The downside of spending so much time bingeing on textbook reading is that I am left with no time to focus on what actually counts when it comes to succeeding in my classes: memorizing test banks. No matter how much textbook reading I do, no matter how many diagrams I draw or problems I solve, I can’t possibly remember all of what I’m imbibing with the same fidelity as someone with a condensed list of the necessary facts. They have the unfailing filter, while come test-study time, I must search through thousands of chocolate bars without much of an inkling as to what the golden ticket might look like. But oh, how that chocolate is sweet!

There needs to be a change in how our knowledge is tested. No one can be blamed for using old tests to study when it makes study time to test taking time a ratio of one, especially when textbook reading cannot even remotely compete with such efficiency. But the first step to a solution, as every truly diligent student will drink to, is the making of new tests! Tests that aren’t reprints from 2014 with the date changed to match today. It may come as a surprise, but most students aren’t thrown off by this date change and can successfully recall the necessary answers from the bank in spite of it.

But this alone is unhelpful. The second and even more important step is that the new tests, once they are made, should be catered to vibrantly reflect the knowledge that can  only have been acquired from someone who worked hard on the readings and problems assigned. If the tests were already made this way, then this whole problem would not exist, as the students who cared about the class would far outperform the test-bankers, and reading the textbook would actually be worthwhile for doing well.

These changes have not been made, and until they are made, I would like to share some thoughts to help your curiosity and love of knowledge take you through those textbook pages and class readings. My uncle told me recently that I should be grateful for what I have, the ability to study all day, because someday that won’t be a possibility. I took this very much to heart. We are surrounded with such goodness in that we can sit in comfortable chairs, in warm, quiet rooms, not hungry or thirsty, not sick or poor or wanting of anything, and learn about the world. Try to realize that whatever text you have in front of you, whatever words you are reading, it may be that you will never encounter them again. They may never have the chance to affect you if you don’t let them now.

While we wait for the reward to actually come from test grades, for now, let us bask in the reward of learning for its own sake. Teddy Roosevelt makes this point nicely: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” We students are in the Eden of work worth doing. It is important to, from time to time, take a deep, juicy breath and reify that fact. Write it out, hang it on your wall, make it your mantra, you do you. Take this opportunity and suck it dry, for if you delay it will wither of its own accord. Read, learn, think, ask, get excited about our world. And so we go.