Just passing time

In the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” the protagonist, Lucas Jackson, spends the duration of the film devising elaborate plans to escape the prison crushing his spirit. Often, college students feel like Luke, trapped in an institution of their choice, trapped by prison bars of closed classes and shackled by required courses. Is it any wonder students fill their days with antics similar to those of the prisoners in the movie, like eating a dozen eggs or drinking a gallon of milk?

The University motto is “Transforming Hearts and Minds,” but really, is that what’s going on in the classroom? Too many times, students are being transformed into people who know how to do well while learning the least amount possible.

Now, part of the problem does lie with students. If students really wanted to challenge themselves, they would. Still, it doesn’t seem logical that students don’t want to learn; presumably, they wouldn’t be in college (especially at a semi-selective school like Villanova) if they didn’t.

Thus, a certain amount of blame must lie with the University. Many times, students spend most of their first two years taking classes that they are required to take rather than classes they truly are interested in. If students must take a class they don’t want to take, wouldn’t they much rather take the easiest possible class and get it over with?

Professors should be required to teach more classes. By having professors offer more classes, even freshmen and sophomores with later registration times could have access to the best teachers. This would instill in them early on a love for classes and learning; they wouldn’t be turned off of the college curriculum by the boring or strict teachers that most upperclassmen don’t want to take. More classes would hopefully also lead to more diversity in class offerings so students could learn more about what truly interests them.

Great professors, the ones that students sign up on waiting lists in droves for, should be rewarded – but not necessarily by being made departments heads, where they will spend more time on administrative duties and less on actually teaching classes. Obviously, if this is the intended career path of the professor, that should be honored, but why take away someone who can truly motivate students?

When one factors in all of the University, college and major requirements, students see their ocean of potential learning opportunities, 40 total classes, reduced to a mere puddle, 11 free electives. Is it any wonder then that students end up feeling like prisoners in their own education?

When the guard asked Luke what he was doing, Luke replied, in a now-famous line, “I’m just passing time, boss.” It’s sad to say that what could be the most intellectually stimulating years of our life have become about “just passing time.”