Playing hookie to 'educate the whole person'

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Opinion articles.
Playing hookie to 'educate the whole person'

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006

As the alarm on my computer soothingly serenaded me back from Dreamland with Edward Grieg's classic song "Morning," I checked my clock to make sure that it was time to get up.

9 a.m. Dang.

I rolled clumsily out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom to start my morning ritual, but five minutes later I found myself back under the covers, snoozing, and thinking to myself that 9 a.m. was far too early in the morning to actually begin learning things, particularly after a long night of working at the Loyolan to help put out our student newspaper that week.

Call this laziness if you want, but I think of it as knowing my priorities. Each semester, I usually have five classes, and inevitably two of those classes I don't care about and learn hardly anything from, yet must take in order to graduate. Each semester, I also have a slew of other activities outside of the classroom that encourage my personal and academic growth, despite not being part of the traditional "classroom learning" structure. Is it wrong to sacrifice a few class sessions in order to devote my time to activities that I am passionate about and that will help me become the person that I want to be?

If you're looking for the point of this rant, here it is: attendance policies in college are bogus. We've all heard the complaints from students about how now that we're independent and away from parents and most authority figures, we should be responsible enough to determine whether or not to attend the classes in which we have enrolled. While I agree with this mindset, I think the sham of having attendance policies in college extends beyond this -- it gives teachers an excuse not to try.

Before I go further, let me preface this by saying one thing about our professors here at LMU. In my four years here, I have had the privilege of learning from many amazing men and women in various fields of study, and I remain truly grateful for all that I have picked up and all knowledge that has stayed with me. Sadly, and perhaps expectedly, I have also had several teachers who, to put it bluntly, were not good. Every minute of every hour of each class session was spent hating myself for having ever decided to take such a class with such a teacher. Perhaps the worst part, though, is that the majority of these teachers were the very same that took attendance religiously and gave it the most weight in the grading process.

The truly great professors have shown an overwhelming passion for their subject matter and a keen interest for making their students feel this passion too. Whether they accomplished this through lectures and discussions, supplementary video tapes, field trips, or various other outside-the-box teaching methods, they made me want to roll out of bed in the morning (or afternoon) to attend their classes because I was actually excited to learn. This is one of the things that college is all about -- not forced learning, but opening students' eyes to a world of knowledge and showing them the excitement of obtaining such knowledge.

When bad professors force attendance on their students, it does nothing except leave a bad taste in the mouths of young people, stomping on their desire to learn. What's more, according to LMU's mission statement, "Loyola Marymount understands and declares its purpose to be the encouragement of learning, the education of the whole person and the service of faith and the promotion of justice." The mission statement goes on to speak about how the university encourages students to involve themselves in a variety of extracurricular activities that will provide "opportunities, experiences, and responsibilities that will assist and guide [students'] struggle to become fully human."

Part of being and becoming a responsible adult is understanding one's duties and obligations and learning to prioritize them. When there is a particular class or professor that does not stimulate one's mind or add to one's knowledge base at all, there is no reason that the student should not be able to discern between participating in an extracurricular activity that will assuredly encourage personal growth and attending a class that will not help at all to educate the whole person or encourage learning.

Next time I have a class that I've deemed unworthy of my time, I won't feel bad about skipping it in order to participate in activities that I am passionate about, such as the Loyolan or my service organization-activities that I have determined will do more to educate my whole person than any forced learning ever could.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan:]
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