By Brad Moore
An elective is rarely a class that you can get passionate about. Most of the time it’s a too-easy, skim-the-readings, and flirt-with-the-girl-in-the-Uggs kind of experience. Occasionally you’ll perk your head up once a week to say anything just so you can get those sought-after participation points. At least that’s how it feels, according to my classmates’ classroom decorum.
I talk too much in class. I raise my hand for everything, and I admit that sometimes I don’t even have anything to add, really. I have even said the exact opposite of what I believe just to get anybody else to talk, and then I shake my head in agreement with them as if they convinced me otherwise. You’d be surprised how popular this can make you, though whether or not that’s a good thing is debatable.
Unconfidence Speaks in Simple Phrases
Once that discussion gets started—the one where everyone is now contributing—one of my biggest pet peeves about the modern classroom rears its ugly head. It prefaces at least 70% of classroom responses. That’s about the percentage of people who think UFO’s are totally aliens from outer space, so naturally we should be concerned about this. It starts with one simple phrase:
“Well, I was gonna say…”
Or the alternative:
“I feel like…”
And it ends with:
“…But that’s just my opinion, I don’t know…”
Think about how many times you’ve said these phrases in classes that ask you to speak up and state your opinion. I started noticing it the Fall semester of my junior year in a class where we read autobiographies. About six people in a row replied to their classmates with a phrase that is already implied by them electing to contribute to the conversation. I noticed that I was doing it nearly every time I answered a question, but I didn’t know why. After a good dig through my past class schedules, the reason finally dawned on me.
Freshman fall semester electives. Specifically a course entitled “Race on the Stage.”
It’s Okay to Be the Odd Man Out
Approaching college from High School is pretty terrifying. When you’re dropped into a class that has all ages of students, you really don’t want to sound like the dumb freshman in the room. Especially at a school like Temple University, where it’s not hard to be a white minority in a class that focuses on racial issues.
This class felt like I was a football being spiked into the landmine-filled world of college classroom discussion. I learned very quickly that the easiest way to share the opinions that some of my classmates might not like was to place them behind the comfortable veil of modesty that comes with the statement, “Well I was just going to say…” It implies that you were not, in fact, going to share your opinion, but rather decided to sit back and watch the conversation develop, only to find yourself pushed to finally share your thoughts slightly against your will. It’s easy, it’s common, and it’s a total cop out.
It’s almost like saying “It is what it is,” only safer. And safe isn’t a good thing in intellectual discussion. You should want to delve into shark-infested waters and not be afraid to get your leg bitten off. You should have the gumption to call out someone’s weak argument, and the same gumption to realize when you were wrong. Without that brevity you’re merely skimming the surface of the expensive detour from your major.
College Offers the Best Environment for Respectful Arguments
I address this issue because as we get further into the millennium our Bachelor’s degrees seem less and less valuable. Even though they’re viewed that way in the workforce, our brains and our wallets sure don’t see it that way. And if we’re going to sit there and coast through school with only a piece of paper to show for it, then we’re going to be doing ourselves a massive disservice.
Speak up, let your voice be heard, compromise when you feel bested or enlightened, and don’t be afraid to disagree. People might not like it, but they’ll at least respect you for sticking to what you believe in.
But that’s just my opinion, I don’t know.
Brad Moore is a senior at Temple University where he is a Film and Media Arts Major at the School of Communications and Theater.