What’s It All For?

So what so here I am, sitting in the Reserves Room of the library, and I’m surrounded by approximately seventy other students, all in the same predicament that I’m in: We are all studying for exams. Or “studying,” to be more exact. There are some people who are legitimately going over lecture notes and textbooks, and there are others who are doing research on the Internet (as I should), but the majority of people are there with friends, talking about social lives and drama (with the occasional mention of an exam thrown in every now and again). This brings me to a quandary, which has been plaguing me ever since eighth grade when I was forced to take my first final: What is the point?

What are they, exactly. Are finals truly the measure of how much one has learned over the semester? Or is it simply a measure of how much one can cram and memorize in anywhere from two days to one week? Are they even truly necessary?

Exams have plagued students since the beginning of education. Some brilliant adult mastermind decided to determine a student’s knowledge by an extremely long, extremely challenging, cumulative culmination of a set period of time.

Now, the typical student doesn’t go over his or her notes after every class and do a weekly readthrough of all notes taken since the beginning of the semester. Hell, half the students in college don’t even take notes. Nor do they go to every class, or do every reading of every book. It’s not that we’re half-assing our obscenely overpriced educations. More along the lines that we are overwhelmed with schoolwork, jobs, friends, and social commitments. A good number are probably overwhelmed with the fact that they are in a different environment than the protective arms of Mommy and Daddy, and this time not even the Almighty Dollar can save the floor from falling out from underneath them.

Furthermore, we’re pouring over books and notes for things we will probably never use.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the statistic is that 75% of college graduates find jobs that are only related in small part, if at all, to their concentration. Although this statistic is probably wrong, in that the actual percentage is higher, let’s think about this. Fifty kids in here are studying something that they are never going to use, be it because it’s simply a general education requirement, or because when they actually graduate, Mr. Mechanical Engineering with a specialization in the mechanisms of space and time will probably end up being Mr. Construction Worker. And do biology majors really need multivariable calculus with an emphasis on imaginary numbers and unsolvable equations? Here I am, studying the Psychology of Violence and Non-Violence, and I am an International Affairs and Italian major. I mean, really. And it’s not like this psych class really utilizes my skills, and so I, along with my peers waste our time and skills on mundane and irrelevant courses.

I have always been a good student, blessed with the uncanny ability to bullshit like it’s my job (and since I’m going into politics, it is going to be my job very shortly so I might as well be good at it). And persuasive essays and debates are my forte, being able to persuade people that the sky is, in fact, purple. In politics, this is a necessary, if not basic, skill, Yet in anthropology or calculus, this has absolutely no place. And thus, because of lack of usage, like any other skill, it seems as though my bullshitting skill has been becoming rusty over the past semester. Like a runner who doesn’t run for weeks, or a pianist who doesn’t practice, I don’t know that I could convince you that the sky was purple right now. Green maybe, but definitely not purple.

So now here I am thinking, “Well, what do I do after this three hour exam is over?” Is it actually worth remembering that Homo erectus had a curved pelvic bowl and a lengthened ischial shaft but short arms and legs, and was almost certainly directly related to the indigenous peoples of….wherever. Truth be told, I am probably going to forget most of the things I have learned this year. I don’t care if Homo heidelbergensis didn’t have descendants, and I certainly am not going to remember the difference between prisons and the ‘hood when it comes to ratios of gang-related violence against women under 25 with three or more children, a dog, and an income of $10,000 or less. It seems as though half the semester was a waste of my time, money, and effort. I would much rather be learning about the International Relations between the US and the Middle East with respect to Israel, or speaking only Italian for three hours a week. There are so many more things I would rather be doing that STUDYING right now. But a high GPA will allow me to study abroad somewhere exotic and amazing. And to get a high GPA, I have to do well in these extraneous classes.

I suppose that exams are trade-offs. If you do well, you earn a high grade and thus are allowed more privileges, like getting the hell OUT of URI. And because this is my ultimate goal, I guess I just have to suck it up. Exams are the spawn of Satan, but in three hours, they’re over and you never have to deal with them again.

Until next semester.

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