A warm breeze blows over bewildered faces. Sheeple cross the street in herds; horns blare. Maps of campus flutter in the wind, and EASI grids litter the pavement.
No doubt about it, yesterday was the First Day of School: the dreaded FDS.
Yes, kids, yesterday rang in the auspicious FDS of the 2001-2002 year. Our high hopes and ambitious dreams for the summer have passed in a drunken, smokey blur. Our tans have already started to fade. The time has come for us to relinquish our sunny days at the beach and trade them for – well, okay, trade them for sunny days on Bascom Hill. But now we’ll have to be studying.
The vast majority of us have had at least 12 FDSs, but why does the FDS still bring jitters?
Is it the fear that no one in your classes will like you? Is it the fear of not having “cool” clothes? Is not being smart enough the cause for concern?
No, none of these is responsible for FDS nerves. The real reason is the fear of all the drivel we have had to put up with each and every FDS of our lives.
Each year through grade school and high school, students have to sit through the same speech about the rules of the classroom: No talking out of turn, no horseplay, no eating glue, etc., etc. It gets dull, and it’s the same stuff every single year.
Why didn’t teachers just say, “You got the drill last year and the year before and the year before that, yada yada yada, so I’m not going to waste your time with it this year. Let’s get going”?
Today, in our highly advanced and efficiently run university, we go through much the same ordeal.
One exception: FDS lectures usually (note, usually) are all right. They generally consist of the professor saying, “Hi, I’m Professor Blop. This is Psych 160. If you’re not in this class, leave. Let’s begin.” That’s what I like to see: at least I’m not wasting my time by going to a class that is both completely and utterly useless.
But many FDS classes are discussions – discussions before the corresponding lectures have even met. What, then, is the TA meant to talk about?
Half of the time the TA cancels the section, thus making the FDS meaningless, since it’s then not really the FDS. The other half of the time, the TA talks about himself for a while, and then each member of the discussion says their name and a little something about themselves.
After that, the TA passes out a syllabus and proceeds to read it aloud to the class. I’m sure I speak for all students when I say, I can read. We’ve all been admitted to UW-Madison, so we can’t be complete simpletons. This isn’t Stevens Point or anything, but for goodness’ sake, TAs, have a little faith.
I can cite my day yesterday as proof that the FDS is unnecessary. My first discussion was cancelled, though my TA failed to inform the section of it; anyway, only about 10 students were silly enough to even show up. I then sat through a class I’m not even registered for yet, just in case I’m lucky enough to get in. Finally, I walked miles to get to my last discussion section, to be notified by a sign on the door that I would see the TA next week at section.
In sum, my FDS was pointless.
What, then, is to be done about the FDS and its absurd position as a day to be honored? Revered and reviled, the FDS is the essence of childhood in one day, all the uncertainty and nervousness wrapped into one bundle of new backpack and Trapper Keeper. But really, what good are the usual FDS rituals at this point in our schooling careers?
I don’t need to know (and forget) everyone’s name on the first day of class. I don’t need to get my TA’s life story; I’m sure I’ll learn it throughout the semester. And for the love of God, I don’t need to have my syllabus read to me as though I’m in kindergarten.
Next semester, we should just start with the second day of school and be done with it.