This semester has been a long one. I've had more ups and downs than typical, but I don't know whether that's me or the semester. Personally, I've been struggling to stay on top of the emotional game. I've had several really high moments, but also some of the lower moments of my life, too. I've been rewarded with some of the best and most dedicated students....and...some woefully undedicated ones.
I am a nerd, admittedly. I enjoyed school all the way through, and I still am wildly crazy about learning new things and thinking. I love being intellectually challenged by friends and family as well as by books and movies. Sometimes I think people see me as too argumentative or forceful in my opinions, but it's not because I want to push my thoughts on others. It's because I want to be pushed and prodded to be clear in my own views. I want to be sure I'm thinking with all the views possible in my toolbox, you know? I don't want to be guilty of formulating opinions that are easy or based on half the available information.
So it is a mystery to me why others aren't the same way. Maybe that's arrogant, assuming the world should be like me, but I don't think so. It seems like the most common and powerful thing in the world to be curious, to try to learn, to take advantage of every opportunity to be better, smarter, more informed. I don't see this as necessarily tied to formal education, though I'm obviously a big proponent of that, given my job. :) Some of the smartest, best informed people I know have little to no college experience. They just engage in the world and its available information.
This semester, I have seen much more disinterest and lack of effort than ever before in my students. I still have a lot of great ones who do try, but it's harder to keep focused on them when I'm seeing so many more problems. Of course, it's frustrating to grade mediocre work, but that's nothing. The real disheartening thing isn't giving out low grades, it's the lack of caring, the lack of trying, and the lack of desire to learn. It breaks my heart, and I fear if it continues it will make me unable to continue in my job. I can only emotionally handle so much of it.
If you have kids, encourage their curiosity. Build into them a sense of passion for figuring things out, for working hard, for trying. If you're an adult, build into your life more passion for those same things. America is falling behind the rest of the world in intelligence, education, and life satisfaction. These things are not unconnected, but they are avoidable if we stop accepting and rewarding mediocrity.