At the end of every semester I have to remind myself to feel pleased about the students who have tried and refuse to let those students who’ve mailed it in get me down. This is certainly, at least in part, due to embarrassment and shame as I was often the college student who gave minimal effort, especially during my early college years when the draw of $.50 pitchers was stronger than the reality of post-college employment; a reality which I inevitably put off for eight more years in favor of grad school.
But aside from the sting of critical self-reflection, my disappointment stems mostly from my desire for my students to see that life beyond the safety of college is tough and that effort -or lack thereof- is no longer corollary to one’s mastery of the Wikipedia search. I worry that if students are not trying in college, how will they accomplish anything outside of it.
This is not a heartfelt rambling of a college professor, but rather a critical call-to-action from someone who works with job seekers, particularly those who may not have the ingenuity to create $1 billion apps or design spaceships -no matter their access or privilege- but who have worked hard in their life, showcasing effort at all times, no matter the task or the risk.
As a critical scholar, I recognize the shortcomings of the ideological underpinnings that define so many of our social and cultural narratives. Not everyone is capable of pulling on their bootstraps. However, if you’ve been given the privilege of going to college or getting a decent job, don’t mail it in. Working hard every day is rarely rewarded, but don’t let apathy and indifference screw up those moments when it is.