Sunday, September 26, 2010

Black Hawk Down, Imperialism, and Shoe Shopping

I stopped by the shoe store yesterday because I had a 20% off coupon and because my feet have been uncomfortable now that the summer has ended and I haven't been able to slip on my Tevas or Keenes every time I leave the house. While I was looking, mostly in vain, for a size 11 in just about anything, I overheard the younger clerk talking to a customer he knew about a paper he'd written for school. Apparently, his professor was "lying" to him and was "ignorant". The professor had apparently told this student that "there was imperialism in Black Hawk Down". The student "looked it up, and there wasn't."

I have to pause here for a moment. Had the student said, "I looked it up, and it was kind of complicated, and it was boring" - that would have been less bothersome to me. The idea that someone would think that this kind of question is one that they could look up and find an answer to easily, especially someone who is in college, is just sad, because it means that they (or their parents) are paying for an education that they don't even know they aren't participating in. And not *participating* in an education means not *getting* one.

Meanwhile, this guy went on to say that he had told this to his professor, and the professor had told him that he had to look for it in order to see it. He was so irritated that the professor was apparently lying to him and didn't know what he was talking about that he wrote a paper about how people are ignorant about imperialism. And got an A minus.

He went on to talk about an upcoming audition for a reality show, and getting an agent, and so on - his dreams beyond that shoe store, dreams that clearly, in his mind, were unrelated to college. So, when I went up to the counter to purchase my shoes, fully intending to give him a lecture about what research really entailed, I told him that I had overheard him talking about his paper and asked him where he went to school. It was one of the community colleges, he told me - "pretty boring," he said, with a lazy, confident smile. And I decided, as the other clerk and customer were watching me curiously, not to be that person, and not to make that scene. All I could muster was, "that's too bad," in my mother's voice. But he didn't understand that I meant it was too bad that he was not applying himself and taking advantage of his education, that it was too bad that he thought that research questions all had simple answers, that it was too bad that he saw a flaw in his professor's education but not in his own. He mostly thought that I thought it was too bad that his classes were boring, though the smile wavered a bit.

And I left the shoe store and gave Bean a version of my lecture, telling him that, while he would very likely have teachers and professors who were wrong, he shouldn't immediately assume that they were wrong if he found information that challenged what they said. Instead, he should first try to figure out if perhaps it was a more complicated subject than he had first thought.


Danielle said...

Do you mean to say that he hadn't actually read Black Hawk Down and/or didn't know what imperialism really means?

Plain(s)feminist said...

I don't know. I suspect that he saw the movie.

Also, I should clarify. There are startlingly unequipped teachers out there, and I didn't mean to suggest that they are never wrong. I just hate the idea of students assuming first, last, and always that if something doesn't add up, it must be because the teacher is stupid.