March 14, 2005

Learning Curve

Finals week- some of us are pulling our hair out, and others are already on spring break. I’m a little of both. Two finals and 4 papers due before this week is over. Fortunately, I got a little bit ahead last week and can chill this week. After all, the Bobcats are going to the NCAA tourney. I’ve got more important things to think about than class.

CJ and I were discussing classes earlier. He was trying to beat Mario 1 in under 10 minutes again, and I had just got home from turning in our ticket lottery papers at the Convo. We talked about grades and how they could vary so greatly between professors.

Some professors work your ass off all quarter with hundreds of pages of reading, papers, and impossible tests. No matter how hard you struggle, getting a decent grade is nearly impossible. Another teacher with the same class, but a different section may hand out A’s like that’s all there was. Either way, after the completion of the classes, credit is given for the same course. This is the reason why websites like “Pick-a-Prof” are so useful.

Often in my college career, difficult classes have proven to be the best ones. My favorite classes have been the ones I have learned the most in, and simultaneously have gotten the lowest grades.

The best class I have taken at OU was the late Professor Frank Henderson’s POLS 270: Political Theory. He was considered the most difficult professors in the Political Science department, but he was also named Professor of the Year so many times that they named him University Professor in Perpetuity so that someone else could win. He deserved it. In that class, I learned more about myself, my political views, and why than ever before or since. I learned the viewpoints of many political theorists from Plato to Machiavelli and compared them to modern activists.

The tests were impossible: 80 True/False, and 80 matching. That sounds easy, but believe me, that kind of test is very deceptive. I had never taken a harder test, despite ACT, SAT, AP tests and countless other college classes. No other tests came close to being as challenging as Henderson’s. In the end, I received the most difficult C- ever. It was my only grade that low, and it stands as my worst grade ever, including high school and college. Sadly, Professor Henderson died hardly three weeks after the completion of that class, and I never had the chance to see him again.

I ended up retaking the class last summer for a much, much better grade.

I guess I’m saying that grades are misleading. They often don’t reflect how much you learned, nor how hard you worked. I do believe it is what you learn that is more important. I wish there was a way to quantify that.

March 07, 2005

Now & Later

mentioned in a previous entry that I intended to discuss the trade of today’s labor for tomorrow’s leisure. (See March 2) This is a concept we all recognize and follow, but I doubt that many people really sit down and think about it.

College is a lot of work. We read, write, study, go to class, participate in extracurricular activities, work, and otherwise keep ourselves busy. We’re working hard now in hopes that the fruit of our labors will be a better paying job down the road. Granted, some want a genuine education just to “know stuff”, but even that has an ends in mind. There is an objective to all of this.

When we get to the “real world” just about all of us will have an entry level position. We’ll have the cubicle instead of the office, work late shifts, and have minimal vacation time, all for low pay. At this point, we’ll be “paying our dues” to our careers, or “getting experience under our belts”.

Eventually, we’ll claw our way to the top, or at least to an acceptable level of mediocrity. From here, we’ll have the jobs we always aimed to hold, be paid well enough to have our homes with picket fences in suburbia and send our kids to “good” schools. We’ll be able to enjoy our leisure time thanks to the efforts we had made previously.

We’re paying for that riding lawnmower, Volvo, and vacation to West Palm Beach just as much now as we will be in 20 years. Our labor now, both academic and physical, is an investment. Education is considered capital- the same as the machinery of an industry. It’s an asset that provides for a better likelihood of gains in the future.

We are trading today for tomorrow.

To put this into a microcosm, think of a big final you have to take. To prepare, you could very likely spend 8 hours in the library, studying, cramming, and rereading the chapters. In the course of doing so, what are you missing out on? Time with your friends or family? A party or social event? A date with your significant other? You make the choice to skip those activities and study because of the promise of a better tomorrow because of it. You believe that if you nail this test, you can celebrate that evening, or just enjoy the satisfaction of an A. Regardless of the grade you get, you missed that time with friends, that party, or that date. It is now gone because you traded it away.

The converse is also true though- sometimes we trade tomorrow for today. To demonstrate with an extreme, think of a drug addict. A person who is ruthlessly addicted to heroin surrenders time, money, their work, and much more to get that high. They’re trading away their potential tomorrow for that buzz right now.

Another microcosm you may be familiar with is drinking alcohol. On a Friday night, you may go out with friends and have a fun time. You may drink excessively, knowing full well that Saturday morning is going to be less than pleasant. You’re willing to exchange the hangover for carousing the night before.

The exchange is a sacrifice for one to improve the other. Is the trade of today for tomorrow and vice versa worth it? That of course, is up to you.

March 04, 2005

Greek Animosity

I’m feeling good. Last night was a great time, and a great start to what I know will be an awesome weekend. Last night we had a social with a sorority that a lot of our guys know, and a fraternity that we really didn’t know anything about.

The guys turned out to be pretty cool actually. It’s not that I’m surprised, but it reminds me of a stigma that seems to exist in the Greek world. All fraternities are competing against each other, and the sororities do the same. We compete for recruitment, for IFC athletics, for highest GPA, for attention from sororities, and for a heavier presence on campus. There’s nothing wrong with this competition- I see it as healthy and natural. But because of the competitiveness, a lot of the time Greek organizations get really antagonistic about it.
For example, in our chapter, one of our guys may mention one of the bigger fraternities on campus, and we begin to verbally bash them. We imply that they’re a bunch of meatheads, that they’re rude to women, or that they are otherwise un-cool in every conceivable way.

We stereotype our competition in any way that we can. The guys even do this to sororities that we don’t know, or have had a bad experience with. We accuse them of being a bunch of sluts, of being cokeheads, or many other insulting things. Many of these impressions are passed down from the ‘elders’ in our chapter, who may base it on an incident 4 years ago, if any basis at all.

In my experience, especially this year, many of the fraternities are all about the same. We all have our share of different types of guys, as do the sororities and their women. Some are jerks and assholes, and I’ll admit that- but some are genuinely nice and interesting people. It’s a lot easier to insult them than it is to admit that they’re an okay group of folks who we just haven’t met.

It’s really a shame when our crude opinion is so unwarranted. My advice to all the younger Lambda Chi’s is to not let any of the older guys influence your opinion on other Greek organizations. Make it a point to meet them and form your own opinion. With Greek Life at OU struggling the way it is, we can’t waste our time and energy forming crude opinions of others.

March 02, 2005

School Burnout, the Census and Redskins

It's that time of the quarter again where we all complain that we're sick of school. We're tired of class, completely burned out on reading and can't stand the thought of another paper to write. We also know that the end is near. Another week, then finals, then alas, it will be spring break.

It can't come quickly enough. I'm definetly in the same boat as what seems like everyone else.

It's still funny though. I've dealt with this problem for the past 16 years, if you take it all the way back to kindergarten. Despite this, here I am again, burned out and struggling to keep my head in the game for the last two weeks. Us college kids are choosing to do it though. We're in school working hard so that life may be a little easier down the road. We're trading todays labor for tomorrow's leisure. (Actually a topic I intend to discuss when I have time to climb that soap box.) So we do it by choice, and its a choice I'm proud to make.

I was in the library today, and with nothing better to do, I was playing with census data in the 5th floor government document center. (Some of you are saying, "Alden has 5 floors?", or more likely, "Alden has a government document center?", or even more likely, "You are such a dork.") I examined a few things closely. First, I looked at a map of the average household income color coded by county. It painted an interesting picture, indicating just how poor south east ohio really is. I later examined it city by city, checking in on specific towns I am familiar with. Contrasting Dublin with Grove City and Upper Arlington was surprising, let alone to cities like Athens, Hamilton, or other places. It was really almost frightening. If you'd like to see it, check it out yourself. You can get to it all at I almost couldn't believe my eyes.

I also examined another statistic. I checked out the percentages of college graduates across the state. This was also surprising. Only 21.1% of Ohio's citizens aged 25+ have a bachelor's degree or higher. It's a fact I've known to be true for some time, but I never looked into it myself. Again, south east ohio was the site of a major disparity in this area too, save Athens county of course, where OU is a bastion of the educated. What this means is that when I finish my degree, I will be more educated than almost 80% of Ohioans. That's 4 out of 5.
This all brings me back to the fact that I choose to be here. Remember that when your classes get you down. The struggle for that $80,000 piece of paper with your name on it isn't that far from over, and when it is, you'll be placed in the top 20% most educated in the state. (That 1.1% we're above is Miami. Yeah, you heard me, you collar-popping nancies.-I'm just kidding, I know there's a couple Redskins reading this.)

March 01, 2005

I can't believe I'm doing this

So I started one of these blog things. I know what you're thinking, and I don't believe it either. I always thought these things were for high school girls and corporate whistle blowers. Either way, I've read a few of these from different people and it doesn't seem too bad. It's not even that I really want to maintain a journal or anything. I mostly want to just write some random stuff down that people can read if they want. I realize that OU provides web space that I could have done this with, and I almost did. I downloaded Dreamweaver and everything... but then it hit me. That requires work. Either HTML editing, or screwing around with Dreamweaver, which isn't quite so bad, but it would probably make me want to focus more time on making the page do neat things than actually being a reflection of things I'm thinking. That part scares me too though, especially after talking to Nate the other day. He said that when he talked to an Army recruiter they knew all sorts of crazy things about him. I fear that. I just know that in a few years when I'm applying to the CIA, or farther down the road if I run for public office, I'm going to be asked about this. "So Tyler, I see by your web log that you liked the movie 'Farenheit 9/11'. Does this mean you're a card carrying communist or a liberal hippie? Which one is it?" The book 1984 frightens me. I loathe Big Brother. Ah well. Here I am. So anyway, I'm going to give this a shot and see what happens. P.S. Before I forget, I'd like to ask that you leave a comment or two on what you read. I'm always curious about other people's opinions on some of this stuff, so post away.