Reading Rights

Magdalena Waz

Last week, I had one of those days in class during which I wondered if I wanted to stay in school forever. I could probably attribute this to the regular “senior questioning all decisions made” feeling. But this time around was a little different, because I was concerned with what school actually did/does for me.
In school, I can sit in class after having read a book or an article and ask or answer questions. Sometimes, my questions are answered before I can ask them. Sometimes, I don’t have the reading done, and I can only hope that the notes I take will make sense to me later. And yet, I’m already feeling a preemptive nostalgia for this process that gets repeated day in and day out.
The justification most people present for this feeling has something to do with being used to being in school. It is true that we don’t remember a time in our lives when we weren’t really in school, and even though we kind of hate the monotony of it, we know there’s a new kind of monotony waiting for us when we’re done. Maybe the familiar monotony is better.
My dad always tells me that he really wishes he were back in school to have time to just sit around and learn. I’m not sure if I ever gave myself that time, especially not in college between work and “maintaining” friendships. So, maybe I went about school the wrong way. Maybe I should have been here to learn.
But I also never stop to think about what it is that I have been learning. I’ve received a number of syllabi, and those stapled sheets of paper tell me what to read and how to format the reactions I have. What exactly is the difference between this and finding a syllabus for a class online and reading what has been assigned in order to think about it or discuss it with a friend?
My message to you seniors without graduate school plans or you juniors with doubts is this: School does not have to end when assignments do. If anything, school can get much better because you’ll get to think about what interests you, rather than fulfilling the requirements that are meant to make us well-rounded but sometimes leave us bitter.
Before you do that in June, or in a year or two or three, let me give you one assignment. Make a list of the things you neglected to learn fully due to college constraints. Find those books that interest you, or find the job that will let you experience those things and do that.
When I boil it down like that it sounds silly, as if I am simply telling you to do what you love, but it’s more complicated than that. We’ve always been told by parents and by teachers that if we keep looking while we’re in school we’re bound to find something we like. This is a nice exploration, but one directed by other people. It’s time for our own learning to begin.