Formal private education is a marvel of modern society. The problem arises when we begin to think that the academic angle is the sole educational aspect of student life. Worse, we tend to think that social learning does not require the same rigorous thought as book-learning. This, to me, is incredibly silly. The more I learn about my fellow humans, the more I understand that our social mechanism will always determine the effective use of skill. Our efficacy in this social system is undermined by the habits formed during the years spent under the ‘student’ label.
As I see it, most of our culture centres itself around finding ways to escape the arduous task of textbooks and tests, namely by skipping to the opposite extreme: passive entertainment. Life on campus is inundated with extra activities to promote social cohesion and escapism from rigor and strife, and these succeed in relegating academic learning (for which we pay thousands of dollars per semester) to a ‘necessary evil’ while our biological goal remains tethered to whatever causes major releases of endorphins.
Drugs have been a method of human escapism throughout the entirety of our evolution. I am in full support of their calculated use because it is clear that leaving one’s troubles behind for a while is not the only experience visited upon us by substances like alcohol; indeed, the perspective one can gain by ceasing to be self-conscious is life-changing. The problem with most substances is that they have qualities of instant gratification, and this is known to trap people in feedback loops of substance-induced endorphin rushes.
The point is that we are wiring ourselves backwards. Speaking for the majority, we as students are training our brains and bodies to endure productive work in order to reap the benefits of artificial endorphin rushes. Work becomes a meaningless obstacle and hangovers become proof of a vivacious spirit. What we are learning and how it affects us is left in the classroom as we crave the ‘life’ that exists on grinding dance floors or in stoned introspection.
Given our methodology, it is nothing short of lunacy to expect fully-formed, competent adults to emerge from formal private education. This culture of academic derision leading to chronic instant-gratification is a wonderful testament to the current perception of young people as ‘irresponsible.’
There is little I loathe quite as much as prejudice, but the habits exhibited by the student stereotype are telling, and they fit well into a North American adult demographic that is statistically over-medicated and under-productive. Not only that, but we’re restricting our meaningful social interaction to the context of mind-altering substances, effectively training our brains to be open, witty, and vulnerable only as a perceived chemical side-effect.
It is subtle, but reader, I implore you to meditate on the things you do without thinking. Cross-examine each habitual move, question every inadvertent thought or action. It is only through a life lived deliberately that we can be free, that we retain the ability to determine our lives rather than having circumstance carry us from crisis to crisis in a trance of hedonism.
Take a night off this weekend. Turn off every electronic device, close every tome of knowledge, shut off the lamps and light some candles. Reflect on your week, the highs and lows, and highlight the moments during which you made a positive impact on yourself and someone else.
Ask yourself whether you are living, or simply alive.