I remember something my grandma used to say: “We all learn new things everyday”, and I think it is something that I believe is true. It is certainly a way of approaching life, and in my case it might have even be one of the main reason for studying science.
You can imagine what my reaction was when a few days ago a project student said something so shocking, that I was left speechless for a few minutes: “… but I do not want to learn anything new”. She did not say this as a guilty confession or as an excuse or even as a joke, she was completely serious about it.
After the initial shock, I managed to gather my thoughts together and decided that I could not leave it like that. I had to say something, as I am convinced that for a lot of people the University days would be the last time when they dedicate the vast majority of their time devoted to learning and being in touch with ideas, both old and new. Once they are out of formal education, the learning process continues, but definitely not in the same way.
I honestly cannot understand what the point is of being enrolled in a University course if the attitude is that of not being interested in learning. I guess one answer is along the lines of a tweet from @higgino: “Universities are now degree supermarkets”. This might be true, but when I go to the supermarket to buy something, I still go there to buy products that I want to consume; so this is for sure not the whole story. Perhaps the degree is indeed seen as a requirement to get a job, but wouldn’t it make sense to choose a degree that would prepare you to get the skills that you would need once you go out there into the working world? You will have better chances to get the job and hopefully apply what you learnt during your course; but if you did not learn, or rather did not want to learn anything new, what is there to apply?
So, what did I say to this student, well I mentioned something along the lines written above. I am not sure if she would change her mind about it, I can only hope that she does. As for me, I realised that I DO want to learn new things.
PS. I would be happy to hear your thoughts, experiences and suggestions about this. I am sure I will learn something out of it.