The competitive nature of Wake Forest stifles learning

The competitive nature of Wake Forest stifles learning

In high school, I had a teacher who always emphasized “the love of learning.” I had never really thought about that idea until he said it — classes were always a stepping stone for something else, like getting a good grade to boost your GPA for college.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like my classes, it was more of the fact that I wasn’t passionate about what I was learning,  or really taking the time to think about what I was learning.

Often, I wouldn’t even give a second thought to the material of class  — I would “learn” what I needed to learn for the test, then dump it. It was about getting a good grade, not necessarily retaining knowledge. I’m not saying that my school promoted performance over learning, it was just the type of environment we had — competitive. My high school was very similar to Wake Forest: challenging and grueling. It was a lot of work and it was not easy. Though, a rigorous school is not bad, it sometimes creates an environment where students do not necessarily learn, but rather memorize what they need to in order to perform well.

Wake Forest is a competitive place. Students here have high goals and aspire to big things, which is good. Being ambitious and having goals can be good for motivation, but sometimes this produces negative behaviors and actions. Everyone wants to be the best and achieve the most, but that is an unrealistic expectation. Students compete for the best grades because we know that not everyone can get an ‘A.’

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Having too high of goals can lead to people taking shortcuts and doing things the wrong way. As long as we get that ‘A’ or perform well, the means of doing so don’t matter, right? At least that is what some may think.

I find myself thinking that I just need to get through the midterm, the essay, the exam and then move on from the material and never see it again. As Wake Forest students, we have so much schoolwork in addition to extracurriculars that our focus isn’t always on learning for the sake of learning — at least for some of us.

Even some of the professors I have had recognize this. Some have asked on the first day “How many of you would be taking this class if it were not required?” More often than not, only a handful of students raise their hands.

I don’t want it to seem as if I believe Wake Forest explicitly wants us to just get good grades and have that be that — I often have professors applying what I learn to the real world. What we are learning is valuable, even if we don’t necessarily appreciate that while we are here.

I think that a competitive and strenuous learning environment like Wake Forest leads to negative learning habits like memorization over truly understanding the material and cranking out that essay last minute instead of taking the time to craft a well written essay over time. But that doesn’t mean that our four years at Wake Forest don’t mean anything — what we learn is important, and I, along with others, need to realize that before it is too late.

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