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The Current Undergraduate Essay

The article, “Ask Not What You Can Do For Your University, but What Your University Can Do For You”, written by the University of California Los Angeles Student WebZine, claims that universities are no longer providing education for students, but rather running a business. Colleges have turned into a profit seeking institution, making decisions based on financial concerns. The article claims that students are customers and education is a purchase. Webzine scolds the students for their apathetic and lackadaisical attitudes towards learning. The article claims that undergraduates no longer value true education and the process of leaning. Based on a reputable online article written by Rob Roy Kelly, students lack motivation to learn and rely on teachers for all the answers. Kelly explains that undergraduates expect professors to serve them the knowledge they need to obtain a diploma (WebZine 295). Webzine accurately portrays the lack of study habits of the current undergrad such as cramming, use of cell phones, or social media sites during class, but I believe the article is being too critical of the students for our goals of finding a successful career while disregarding the student’s perspectives.

The article argues that students are becoming lazy due to the business-like transformation of universities. There is a common condition of apathy that has spread like a virus throughout all college undergraduates. I agree with this argument presented; students don’t value the educational process anymore. This attitude can be seen through college norms such as cramming for a test. We memorize the information long enough to regurgitate it back onto a test and then it’s forgotten. We don’t absorb the information like the so-called perfect students referenced in the article. Other examples include the myriad of students with their cellphones out texting during a lecture, unconcerned with the information they are missing. At any given point, I bet at least one third of students will have some social media website up on their laptop instead of taking notes during class. I have even seen kids watch movies with earphones covertly planted in baggy sweatshirts.

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Last week in my philosophy class I was sitting behind a girl who was Skyping with her boyfriend. Fully engaged in her conversation with him, she didn’t look up at the professor once. Personally, it doesn’t even take a device to distract me. My mind wanders and daydreams in any given class. The “love for learning” seems to be overshadowed by a more prominent goal; graduation. The UCLA Student WebZine states, “For the normal university undergrad, learning functions more as a temporary obstacle to reach the real goal of graduating and advancing a career than as a motivating force to discover new knowledge” (Webzine 294). As a student body, we seem to care less about learning and more about receiving our diploma. One particular problem I see in this article is that it disregards the students’ perspective. Not once in the article did it mention how students feel about the transformation of Universities, or what we have to say about our so-called apathetic attitudes. Every student attending school has different views about the value of education. There are students that absorb everything and truly enjoy discovering new knowledge.

There are also students who don’t care at all about education and drop out of college. I think it is unfair to say “Contemporary university students, whether consciously or not… remain largely apathetic toward an education of true learning and thinking” (WebZine 295). I think if the authors took a student’s opinion into account, they wouldn’t make such vague accusations about our attitudes. Despite disagreeing with the interpretation of undergraduates, I believe the article supports its argument based on my personal experiences. I usually do cram for exams, leading one to believe that I don’t care about the learning process. I am not a perfect student. I can be found texting during a class, or even checking my Facebook. I also agree with WebZine when it states that college seems like a purchase. My parents and I are putting a lot of financial consideration into my college career. For thousands of dollars per year, I don’t see how anyone could overlook the money put into it.

Therefore I hope to get as much out of our purchase as possible; and a diploma is at the top of my list. “Ask Not What You Can Do for Your University, but What Your University Can Do for You” criticizes students for wanting to graduate, but isn’t that what college is all about? We attend so we have the opportunity to receive a diploma and find a successful career. Excuse us if we are worried about the rat race we are about to enter. These days it is not easy to find a secure career; everyone is competing against one another. The article explains, “Undergraduates invest tuition … to receive a degree that will then precipitate a financially successful career” (WebZine 293). This statement is completely plausible. A financially successful career is the motivation for paying tuition in the first place. My parents, who both work extremely hard, are even having trouble finding a steady occupation.

My dad, who works as a construction project manager, has been laid off three times in the past seven years. He is always concerned about the stability of his current job. My mom has been working as a marketing manager for a successful software company, but her position was recently put in jeopardy. She is at risk for losing her job because the main project she was working on fell through due to complications. I believe it is unfair to scold students like myself for worrying about our futures when failure seems to lurk all around us. I certainly don’t want to end up with no job and have to means to support myself. All students strive to do well so we can graduate with a degree, and hopefully put it to use. Why can’t students just focus on our goals like the rest of America? It seems like we are being asked to do a lot. According to the Webzine, we are expected to cherish everything taught to us. Do we have to treasure every piece of knowledge we stumble across? My main goal is to pass the course; but that’s not to say I am “casual, disinterested, and unenthusiastic” (WebZine 294).

I personally try extremely hard to focus in school and get involved with the curriculum. I make use of my professors’ office hours, and I can be found at every review session. I haven’t missed a single class yet at the University of Massachusetts. It is obvious I care about my education, but in the end it’s my future, goals, and dreams that occupy my mind. Imagine this; you are walking to a bus stop, hoping to catch a bus and head into town. Do you notice every piece of grass you step on or every tree you pass? What about all those people you passed walking on the sidewalk? It seems like we aren’t worried about everything around us, we are concerned with catching the bus. Your attention is focused on your goal to travel into town. Who cares about that mosquito that just flew by your arm?

Similarly, we might not value every fact our professor throws at us. It’s not that the information is unimportant, our destination is just more important. As a student, my career path seems more important to me right now then the material we learned this morning in a biology lecture. I believe “Ask Not What You Can Do for Your University, but What Your University Can Do for You” delivers a believable theory. Universities have become increasingly more business-like and expensive.

The change in the setup of the university system ended up changing the way students viewed education. Students became the customers, with a graduation certificate in mind. Education was no longer a process, but a mere obstacle to a degree and successful future. Therefore students started to care less about schooling, which can be seen through our apathetic attitudes. This all makes sense, I simply disagree with the conclusion. While it may be true I am focusing on my future, I am still an active member of my university and motivated to experience the learning process. I don’t believe students should be scolded for this attitude though; any logical person would weigh their future life path more heavily than the course work necessary to get there.

Works Cited
UCLA Student WebZine. “Ask Not What You Can Do For Your University, But What Your University Can Do For You.” Other Words: A Writer’s Reader. Ed. David Fleming et al. Dubuque: Kendall Hart, 2009. 293-296. Print.

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