Stop blowing off assigned readings

The amount of people at this school who casually blow off readings for their classes is astronomically high, and it is a disturbing trend. Though I am not here to condemn the personal choice of individuals who may have more pressing matters (or who simply do not feel like doing it), I do think it is worth considering the possible implications of a student body that is chronically detached from course material.

In every class, there’s that one person, the kid who bombastically commands the intellectual space, then comes up to you at a party four days later and smugly tells you they bluffed their way through class without reading the material. Not that you needed to know, because most people can spot it it when they see it. The real danger are the true psychopaths; the one that can critically engage with course material and put a twinkle in their professor’s eye and not read a single word of the reading assigned for that day.

Good for them! They will do just as well here as anybody else if they keep it up and take classes where participation is 40 percent of the cumulative grade. But, for everybody in between, skipping readings takes a real toll on the quality of education here at Lawrence. As the twilight of my college career approaches, I would like to take a moment to meditate on my experience as a chronic reading neglecter.

First, you can get away with it in most classes below the capstone and sub-capstone level, especially in the social sciences and humanities. Contrary to Plato, attaining the form of the good and becoming a badass warrior-philosopher is not a good enough reason to read The Republic. Moodle grades are. And when they fall several weeks apart, it is hard to provoke a sense of urgency in students except on the eve of a due date.

Second, there are sometimes legitimate reasons to not do readings. There are plenty of people that have serious issues that demand their time and energy and detract from the classroom. Thankfully, we have things like the Lawrence Healthy Balance Statement and other services to guide us through hard times. However, most people do not have issues so pressing that it prohibits them from clearing up three hours a week to do course readings.

Third, is that if you have a sparse course load and do not have some pressing issue outside of school to deal with, you will be a happier and smarter person if you do your readings. It took me 10 out of 12 terms at Lawrence to learn this, but I can proudly declare that doing my readings dramatically improved my academic experience at Lawrence. Amazingly, the more you do your readings, the faster they go by, the more interesting they become and the happier you will be each night to sit down and get your work out of the way.

Take note aspiring stoners, productivity highs are danker than any strain you will find. If you are the type of person that gets buried quickly, setting aside just 90 minutes twice a week will dramatically improve your life, even if it still is not enough to stay on top of everything you have to.

90 minutes twice a week is not the endgame, it is the opener. Studying a little bit is a foot in the door for studying a lot. Once you realize how much you missed out on by skipping your readings, you will wonder how you skipped so much at all. As soon as you start completing work for one class, your priorities will shift on their own, and you will be setting aside more of your time and energy.

Still, many students here are okay with not doing readings. I am worried that it has a dramatic effect on the type of education people receive. If we do not take it upon ourselves to do the readings for the class, we are really just jumping through hoops presented as due dates throughout the term. If we treat our education like a series of hoops to jump through at spaced intervals, we entirely miss the whole purpose of being at Lawrence. And, at more than $50,000 a year, those are expensive hoops to jump through.

We are offered a choice each time we begin the term. We can pledge to critically engage in the coursework or we cannot. With athletics, clubs, activism, rehearsals and everything in between, it’s easy to neglect the readings assigned to us for each class. However, we are at school after all, and the opportunity to engage in subjects beyond just coursework is, above all else, the reason we chose Lawrence. However, we cannot do that if we do not engage in the coursework at all, something that is remarkably easy to do.