Why are you here?

September 18th, 2014

I don’t mean that to be some deep, philosophical question. I mean, why are you here at John Carroll? We all have our reasons for choosing this school over the others, but why did you choose higher education at all?


In the state of Ohio, high school students can drop out at the age of 18. And once we graduate from high school, we are released from all mandatory schooling. It is entirely our own decision to go to college.

So why did you choose to be here? Some of us are the first in our family to go to college, and others are here because our parents expect us to be here.


But, regardless of how we came about our decision, we executed it at a great personal cost. We took out loans, saved our birthday money and applied for part-time and summer jobs.


After figuring out the application process and tuition bills, we finally arrived on campus for our first college classes. We began the journey towards earning a college diploma, something only a few people are fortunate to have. In fact, according to Bloomberg, only 6.7 percent of the world population in 2010 had a bachelor’s degree.


I guess that’s why I find myself confused so much of the time. In class, I look at the students around me. Some pull out their phones once or twice to check the time. Hey, there are no clocks in the classrooms, so I get that. But I don’t understand the girl who sat in front of me last semester and spent nearly every class period browsing Pinterest and chatting with friends over Twitter. I don’t understand the guy who sat in the front row all year and constantly whispered jokes about the professor to his friend.


Why are you here? If you’re an English major taking a Biology class for a core requirement, then I understand your lack of interest in that subject. However, I don’t see why you decided that it wasn’t worth your time to pay attention.


Every person has “off” days. We zone out for the entire class and just cannot focus. But then we wake up the next day and go back to our regular selves.


While I know plenty of students at JCU who are 100 percent committed to their classes regardless of the subject, I see far too many who have already mentally checked out. I cringe when people don’t even try to hide their phones from the professor and scroll through Facebook in plain sight.


I feel embarrassed for the student, and sympathy for the professor when my classmates silently refuse to take a one-hour break from email, social media and online shopping.


I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that I have a perfect attention span. And I think you, The Carroll News’ faithful readers, would be too smart to believe it.


We are at an institution of higher learning. We are among brilliant people, and I don’t just mean the faculty. We are taught by experts, but we are sitting next to bright minds, too. You had to work to get into college, and so did your classmates.


We don’t appreciate that nearly as often as we should. Instead, we think “this is a waste of time; this instructor doesn’t know what he’s talking about; I don’t need to pay attention to pass; I can just print the notes later.”


Next time you find yourself in class reaching for your phone to check Instagram or hovering your cursor over the Twitter icon on your desktop, think about what it is that you came to JCU for.


Do you want to be surrounded by people who are smarter than you?


Do you want to learn all you can about the incredible contributions that have been made to human knowledge?


Think about how amazing class would be if every single person listened, and read, and contributed their opinions. You would walk away from the semester with countless other perspectives to ponder.


So, in your classes today, ask the professors some questions. But don’t forget to ask yourself a question, too.


Why am I here?