If you were to tell me you have never once let your attention wander to Facebook, Reddit or text messages while in class, I think we can all agree that would be an outright lie.
But while I agree with parts of Garth Beyer’s column last week on student web multitasking in lecture, I don’t necessarily agree with the reasons he gives for such activity.
Beyer gives two main reasons for students’ prevalent web multitasking. First, he says we are expected to keep up-to-date with so many facets of life, like school, work, personal and professional connections and so forth, that it’s difficult not to be constantly checking up on our online lives. Since we can, for the most part, get away with the same grade whether we pay attention in class or not, we therefore can justify web multitasking to help juggle our responsibilities.
The second reason is, in essence, that lectures do not provide the connectivity we crave in this day and age, so we find it online instead. But how one feels more “connected” by looking at Imgur than by participating in class is beyond me.
While reading Beyer’s column, one question kept arising in my mind: If you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars to get a college degree at a liberal arts university, but you can’t bring yourself to find the course material interesting enough that you want to actively pay attention and participate, then maybe, just maybe, you’ve got the wrong major.
I understand there are days when it’s a struggle to sit through a lecture. It can be a battle to force yourself to keep focus. We all space out from time to time, especially when 20 minutes are all that stands between you and lunch.
But isn’t that lecture the whole reason we are here? If you’re a political science major who cannot seem to pay attention in your intro to political science course, then maybe that’s a sign you’re not actually that interested in it. The same goes for all majors and all schools.
I don’t mean to imply that students should not be made to work hard. Slaving away with assignments is different than finding the material interesting and engaging. It’s one thing to complain about the amount of reading you get, but it’s entirely another to complain that a class in your department is boring.
Our society views a college degree as something necessary, something requisite to get anywhere in this world. But once we’ve got a few semesters under our belt, we’re suddenly faced with the question of what to major in now that our feet are in this institution that we “had to” go to. And, hell, there’s a “real world” after undergrad, so we better choose a utile major.
I agree with Beyer that perhaps students’ inabilities to pay attention in class nowadays might stem from a teaching model that could use some updating, especially with interactivity. But that would most likely require smaller class sizes, and given the cuts the University of Wisconsin has been facing, that doesn’t seem to be a possibility.
So if you find yourself unable to focus in classes central to your major, ask yourself why the hell you’re in them.
Reginald Young ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in legal studies and Scandinavian studies.