Bored and apathetic students bother me

It is draining to be in a class where a bunch of deadweights drag the lecture down with their lack of enthusiasm.

Quynh Nguyen

As a student who actually pays attention in class, I am increasingly annoyed with those Sudoku-ing, nose-picking, text-messaging or napping students in the back of class. These are the same students who demand study guides from harried professors, bug their laptop-toting classmates for a copy of notes and are generally the loudest to complain about the slightest challenges in the class. If only they were paying attention in class they would not need to be so obnoxious in demanding crutches to their grade.

It is draining to be in a class where a bunch of deadweights drag the lecture down with their anti-enthusiasm. I applaud these students for being able to muster the motivation to get out of their warm comfy beds and into a stiff auditorium seat – some days it is pretty darn hard to get off a lazy butt. It’s even harder to actually do work for a grade.

Don’t get me wrong – I slack off too. Once you hit the real world, slacking off gets much more difficult. Having had a brief stint as a full-time employee, I have learned how sweet it is to sleep past 8 a.m. and to not have a real boss hovering over me and dripping acid down my neck. Any time I get to slack off I savor it like a gourmet meal. I just separate my slack time from actual school time – the two simply don’t mix. Why slack off in lecture when you can slack off at home and can devote full attention to fun?

I am not deaf to excuses like “Gosh, the lecture is so boring” and “I have to do something to stay awake in class.” But when I hear these excuses I think to myself, “Man, these kids have not worked a single boring day at an 8-to-5 job in their semi-charmed lives. If they have, they would be devoting their class time to learning everything they can to avoid being a full-time grunt stuck in a boring job.”

As a student we can choose to be bored, choose to pay attention, choose majors that stimulate us or choose to not attend class at all. As workers, we have the option to take the job or get another similarly monotonous job.

The people I feel sorry for the most are the instructors who have to put up with lackluster students and do everything they can, short of stripping at the lectern, to keep a disinterested and disaffected student populace in line with the goals outlined in the syllabus. I’ve seen instructors do all sorts of innovative things to keep us awake – remote-control game show clickers, Socratic debates, interactive PowerPoint and WebCT pages – but it is a Sisyphean effort to be more interesting than the Sudoku puzzle.

I have seen instructors just burned out with students who don’t care, students clearly here to get a degree and get out. These instructors are often leaders in their field of research, can publish papers and win grants, but can’t win against a student populace that couldn’t care less.

The only solution I can think of is this: Do your Sudoku at home. If your grades suffer and you don’t like it, change majors to something more interesting and fulfilling so it’s worth coming to lecture. And if college isn’t for you, it’s OK to go out there and work.

Going to college is like going to the movies – admission costs a lot of money. If a lecture, like a movie, is not worth seeing, let your instructor know what you did not like and move on. College is too costly to just blow off to get the mere ticket stub (aka the degree) to say you’ve attended. Believe me, employers are just as impressed with an old movie ticket stub as they are with a degree with no experience and a lackluster GPA.

Quynh Nguyen welcomes comments at [email protected]