February 08, 2005

Studying irrelevant topics

Jeremy Hiebert quotes Aaron Campbell on the motivations students have when pursuing an education. He notes that what often keeps students going whilst on the treadmill of education is pressure from external sources as opposed to an intrinsic interest in the subjects at hand. Similar reasoning could be applied to our choices of subject here at university. Work is rarely easy, but having to study things that are of no interest whatsoever must be incredibly demoralising. We all succumb to these influences to some extent. It could be considered foolish to pursue a university education in a given subject without considering what doors would be opened or closed in the future as a result due to the views of others. Some level of compromise is clearly required.

Students are motivated inwardly to learn. Like all people, they're driven in some form or another to pursue what interests them, be it video games, sports, nature, books, or the proverbial 'sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll'. What propels many students through the educational institutions of society is not these genuine interests, but rather those motivational factors applied from without: pressure from parents and society, fear of failure, the power of authority. If a student is lucky enough for his or her intrinsic interests to be aligned with what school offers, fine. But for a significant number of students, much of what school offers is a grinding chore. In many school settings, there is little outlet for students to pursue what truly interests them. In this sense, their interests are supressed, their creativity stiffled, and their freedom curtailed. Is it no wonder so many behavioral problems exist?

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