Enlightenment

university_of_michigan_by_bagera3005-d4kqxbrWhen I first came to the University of Michigan, I was only focused on getting good grades so that I could get a good job.  All the work I had done in high school and was doing in college was towards my life in the future. Every time I wanted to take a break or procrastinate on an assignment I told myself that it would all pay off in time.  My thinking has changed somewhat, I still truly believe that my hard work will pay off in time but I am more focused now on actually learning for the sake of understanding the world around me.

The best way I can prove this shift in my attitude towards education is through the progression of my blog posts.  My first blog post, A Mathematical Proof of Menand’s Theory 1 (please not that this hyperlink is to a list of my blog posts with my most recent on top), is solely about getting a job after college.  I thought that simply receiving an education in anything, as long as it taught me the skills necessary for the job I wanted, was acceptable.

As the readings in my Political Science 101 class began to become older and authored by more famous philosophers, they also became more cynical.  My second blog post followed my reading of Huizinga’s definition of play and Bartlett Giamatti’s Take Time for Paradise.  Huizinga, a 20th century philosopher, defined play as a disinterested world in which we enter where there are no consequences or worries. Giamatti wrote that people love to watch sports because essentially they are attempting to live through the players.  By watching their grace and coordination we feel the positives such as the thrill of the win or a great play without having to feel the negatives like injuries or financial dependence.  I saw spectators at sporting events becoming enthralled and aggressive in the stands.  I witnessed fans attempting to live through the players and although I understood why the spectators would want to experience the game through the athletes, and even though I participated in it, I was still partly disgusted by the behavior I was seeing.

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau

This was the beginning of the downward spiral of my view of our society. My opinion of humanity was further soiled after reading Hobbes’ Leviathan, a book in which Hobbes defines social contracts and how humans interact with one another. Hobbes believes that our state of nature and war are synonymous and a main theme throughout the book is how humans are intrinsically fearful and selfish. Rousseau and Locke are two other philosophers who studied and theorized about social contracts.

Burke

Burke

  • Rousseau made points of how originally we were self-sufficient individuals but over time we became more civilized and began to live together and once this occurred we had social contracts in place to suppress our selfish desires for the good of society.
  • Locke delves more into whether we live in a state of nature versus a state of war. He argues that when we are free to pursue our own wishes and act as our own judge then war will always erupt. Only if we have a moderator or some force in place will peace be attained.
  • Burke was probably the most pessimistic of them all. Burke is a classic conservative meaning that he believe that there should be slow change in government and society. He explained how whatever class or profession people are born into is the place that they will die and trying to change is a fruitless effort.  He even went so far as to call the general population a “swinish multitude”.

After reading and analyzing these works how can one not be depressed about the future of humanity?  Apparently we are a group of dirty swine who will stab each other in the back whenever it will benefit us. We can’t trust each other, we have no control over our futures and the only times in which we were actually happy was far in the past in states of nature that will never be attainable.

But as I wrote earlier my thinking about college has changed. Before I was only concerned about money, which still has its perks: security, success, status, and pride. But I have decided that I want an education that will help me to understand the world rather than one that will only make me financially wealthy. So after contemplating the repugnant nature of humanity I thought, “What is the purpose of all these works? Is it all just to make us feel bad about ourselves? Do the authors think that they are above the rest of us and that they do not fit into their own descriptions of society?”

I believe that the reason we have these works today is to separate us.  There are those who will take Hobbes or Burke and become depressed at what they read.  And then there are those who become inspired to prove their definitions and theories about human nature wrong. In my third blog, Defying Hobbes Rules, I write about such people, mainly they are soldiers and daredevils. If I can take my education and what I’ve learned in Polisci 101 and use it to emulate the characteristics that these people possess- bravery, confidence, benevolence- then it doesn’t matter what job I have because I will be living a truly fulfilled life which is greater than any sum of money.

What is it really?

Have you ever thought about what college really is?

In my Organizational Studies class, we read Robert Birnbaum’s piece, How Colleges Work. In it, Birnbaum elaborates on the idea that the collegiate system is an anarchical system, a model that can also be described as an “organized anarchy.” Defined by three characteristics, the system has problematic goals, unclear technology, and fluid participation. Much like some authors like Homer and A. Bartlett Giamatti, Birnbaum connects his argument to a sports match and games. Intrigued by the comparison, his piece proposes an interesting way to think of what college really may be, whether it be an anarchy or other type of dominant power.

“Imagine that you’re either the referee, coach, player, or spectator at an unconventional soccer match: the field for the game is round; there are several goals scattered haphazardly around the circular field; people can enter and leave the game whenever they want to; the entire game takes place on a sloped field; and the game is played as if it makes sense.”

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The Climb to “The Top” and All That Comes With It

When I was growing up adults always asked me what I wanted to be, and I never knew the answer. I always thought it was something wrong with me for not knowing because all of my friends knew what they wanted to be. Everyone always had the same answers too, doctor, president, lawyer, etc. The same old answers everyone seems to have at that age. What I soon began to realize was as we started getting older the answers didn’t really seem to change, and the adults’ reactions didn’t either. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.

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The Point is to Learn

In middle school, I was a fairly diligent student who did all the homework assignments well ahead of time, studied for my tests, but never concerned myself with grades. It never really mattered to me how well I did on the tests as long as I was learning, and as weird as it sounds, I enjoyed it. I never felt pressured to do well, and succeeding in my classes just came naturally. I did well in all my classes and I really believe that my foundation in middle school was strengthened because I didn’t let grades define me. My goal was to increase my knowledge, getting good grades was just the cherry on top. However, in high school, my mentality changed. Worried about getting into a good college and maintaining a perfect GPA, I cared less about the knowledge I was gaining than about the letters on my report card. School became stressful and I quickly saw that the more I concerned myself about grades, the less knowledge I retained. I limited myself to only learning material that I would be tested on, and because of this I saw myself falling behind in a lot of areas. I crammed for tests, lost my reading habits, and saw a decrease in my grades. By my senior year, I realized that the obsession with maintaining a perfect GPA had actually dragged me down. I was no longer at the top of my class, and there was nothing I could do about it. I had lost focus on the purpose of education.



After reading Louis Menand’s Live and Learn, I began to relate my mentality in high school to the three theories he proposed. I realized that the theory 1 he proposed was exactly the kind of mentality I carried in high school. Theory one suggests that to excel later on in life, students need to get good grades, which reflect students’ academic progress. It proposes that grades are a predictor of a student’s future performance; good grades represent a successful career while bad grades represent a not so successful career. Thus, it is important to prove to be better than everyone else and to stay at the top of one’s class. However, through my own experiences, I think theory 1 is too narrow-minded and limits the intellectual growth of a student. Thus, I propose three ways in which theory one fails as a predictor of one’s success and as a method of producing more qualified individuals.



Firstly, I think theory one is an extremely unfair way of judging whether someone will succeed in the future or not. Grades are not at all an accurate representation of one’s growth during college. In fact, they are an extremely small part in determining which students will do well in the future because they only factor in academic growth, not personal growth. Pure academic growth does not promise a brighter future. In fact, students who show mental and personal growth are probably more likely to excel in the future than those who just show excellent academic records.

Secondly, if students are only concerned about getting good grades in order to get a job at a good company, they will lose focus on the real purpose of college, which is to learn. It is very easy to lose purpose while competing with others to be the best. However, education is not a competition. It is about growing and if students concentrate too much on getting good grades, they may restrict themselves from growing in other ways. College has a multitude of courses to offer and one should take this opportunity to explore different areas and expand his field of knowledge.

Finally, theory 1 proposes that “education is about selection, not inclusion,” which in my opinion is a very orthodox way of thinking. In a modern society like ours where everyone is given an equal chance, this statement only takes us back to a time when opportunities were offered to only the few privileged individuals in society. Not only is this socially wrong, but it also proves to negatively affect society as a whole because it minimizes the number of educated individuals in our society.

In conclusion, I think theory 1 is impractical, unjust, and does not do a good job of predicting one’s future success. As a previous supporter of theory 1, I have had first hand experiences with the negative effects this theory causes, and therefore, strongly believe that this narrow-minded theory will not ensure the success of college students, but rather create robotic individuals with limited knowledge that only pertains to their respective field.

Recruiting and The Purpose of College

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Applying to my first internship was probably one of the most nerve-wracking experiences as a college student. Before I could press that apply button, I made sure to triple-check my resume and cover letter to make sure there was not one single error anywhere. A couple days after applying, I received an email from the recruiter saying I was going to have an interview the following week with the organization. I sat at my computer re-reading the email obviously happy. But then something came over me. I was not thinking about the interview anymore and how happy I was that I would be given a chance to show off my skills and strengths; I started to think about the article we read during the first week of our Political Science class. The article about the true purpose of college.

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Sports and their Place in College


I never pictured myself at Michigan. In high school I was I was advised to attend a small liberal arts school. I essentially only applied to small schools, but when it came time to actually visit them, I realized that the only outlier in the mix that I applied to was also the only place I could actually see myself: Michigan.

I wasn’t prepared for Michigan. I may have been prepared academically, however in no way was I prepared for the jock culture that I would come to be exposed to. Everywhere you turn there’s a store selling maize and blue apparel or various deals associated with the Wolverines. The athletes, in particular the football and basketball players, are treated like Gods. They stand out in a sea of somewhat nerdy and bookish students. It’s not hard to tell who is an athlete at Michigan. Just ask anyone at this school.

Most people I talk to outside of Michigan can’t separate the University entirely from its football program. They may know who the football players are and what position they play, but when prompted to list what some of Michigan’s best programs are they come up blank.

It makes sense, however, when athletics is such a crucial part of this school and the revenue it produces.

So in what way are the athletes profiting off of this revenue? They work just as hard in many ways as the adults who make decisions for them. They go by a complicated schedule that doesn’t make a lot of room for their studies or a life outside of their team. They give most of their time and energy to the sport, Michigan, and its fans. While fans may give them recognition (there are many athletes on this campus that receive VIP status), they also don’t get much compensation after they leave the school. Athletes face the risk of concussions and other serious injuries that could greatly hinder their quality of life, not just their abilities on the field. These are injuries that players in professional sports encounter. Yet, they don’t get paid like these pro-players.

We could make the argument that they should be playing for the learning experience and getting a discount on a great education is payment enough, but when adults are profiting off of them, how is that fair?

It’s not. They’re devoting the majority of their time to the sport, they face injuries, and they also take the heat when the team doesn’t do well. Michigan and its fans already treat them like they’re celebrities, so they should be getting the payment of a celebrity.

If athletes are paid, though does it take the fun out of the sport? Indeed, it does appear that it takes some of the play and leisure out of what is meant to be an enjoyable diversion from the everyday monotony of work. It is meant to entertain. Athletics that involve play does not fit in with the definition of play that is given in Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga. He believes that play should be meant to be a diversion from regular life and still maintain the fun.

This hardly fits in with what we witness in college sports today, specifically at Michigan.

Does M Club really support you?

So to conclude, what we have going on with athletics at Michigan is a system that profits off of 19 year olds who are getting their heads smashed in with little compensation. The fun is taken out of play for the sake of monetary gain. This debate will continue to be ongoing, but it is clear that athletics at Michigan need to change. The system isn’t working.

Should Everyone Be Super

When I was younger, I was obsessed with the Disney-Pixar movie, The Incredibles. The reason I bring up this classic movie (which has a killer soundtrack by the way), is because a certain quote in it: “If everyone’s super, no one is.” Most of the people I know don’t choose to live their life by a Disney movie saying, but maybe you should. Maybe the idea that nobody is amazing or special if everyone is can transcend more than just a super hero movie and help portray what I view as an epidemic in the American educational system.

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