In fifth grade, my teachers had an interesting motivational technique. They would tell the students, "I know life is easy now, but next year you will all be in middle school, and you won't get away with being lazy." Young, naive and already completely anal about my grades, I believed these admonitions and feared middle school more than I feared girls.
Of course middle school was just elementary school with a metal shop and a bigger cafeteria. I slept through most of it and got A's, all the while listening to teachers warn me about the academic rigors of high school and how this kind of effort wasn't going to cut it in the future. When my middle-school career came to an end, I was no longer so naive. I wasn't afraid of high school. (I was still afraid of girls, however.)
But even with my new-found sophistication, I believed the lie when my teachers warned me about how tough college was. And so when I came to the University of Arizona, I was determined to turn over the proverbial new leaf. I remember one general-ed course my first semester. Instead of just showing up to class, I actually read the textbook ahead of time, and Ä all for the sake of being "a good student" Ä I even outlined the chapters.
The disillusionment set in immediately when I noticed the professor was lecturing from my outlines.
I have seven more shool days left at the UA. After that, I'm taking my degree and running. And if you can't already tell, I haven't been particularly happy with my "college experience."
Oh, I've had some good teachers. I had a great freshman composition class and even enjoyed first-semester calculus. There are some good professors in the Journalism Department. A few others. But on average, I've had maybe one good teacher per semester, and the rest have seemed like high school revisited. I have survived it by reminding myself that I am not here to get an education. I'm here to get a diploma.
I am boring you with another "God the UA sucks" column only because this is my last chance to do so. Somewhere, deep inside me, there is an optimist who believes that if enough students speak out, administrators will finally do something to improve the quality of undergraduate education here.
Of course that isn't going to happen. Like every other Research I university Ä even those in the Ivy League Ä the UA knows that its reputation is built on the quality of its graduate programs and on the success of its research mission. Maintaining excellence in those two endeavors is hard work, and so it is not really a surprise that undergraduate education is an afterthought.
Oh, administrators will deny this, and they'll drone on about how research and education are complementary pursuits. But I know that Ä because of growing enrollment, the absence of state support and the lack of administrators dedicated to education Ä few undergraduates at the UA are getting the education they deserve.
Water under the bridge, I guess. I'll soon be the proud owner of a B.A. in creative writing, along with all the earning power that implies. But administrators may not be through with me yet. You see, the only thing I've really worked for these four years is a journalism career, and (for reasons that would constitute an entirely different column) I've decided that this is not the life for me. And so every morning when I look in the mirror, I hear the voice of Fate whispering these two words in my ear: "grad school."
It's almost inevitable. And since I like Tucson, and since I have a much better opinion of (some of) the UA's grad programs than I do of its general education, I just might be back someday. you.
Kerry Lengel, a creative writing senior, works as opinions editor for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. To tell the truth, he is not particularly afraid of graduate school, but he is still afraid of girls. Read Next Article