Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The WMD called attendance

The popular picture is that one does not need to attend classes once in college. When we do start attending it comes as a complete surprise Over the last three years I have learnt that attending classes is indeed essential. The material is available in plenty thanks to the time we live in. Print and electronic media make it trivial to gain access to any material given some time or money.

Then what is it that we come to college for? What is it that people clamour over colleges for? Most definitely it is not the material taught. Also it is not the books used. Word of mouth often leads to the useage of the same books throughout colleges. What is it then?

I believe that it is the people in college that we fight tooth and nail for. It is the type of people who are allowed to study in a particular college and the type of people who are allowed to teach in a particular college that make a college stand apart from the others. Of course a lot of colleges fall in the 'OK' category. That is simply due to the fact that a lot of people fall into the 'OK' category. It follows from the gaussian distribition of things which says that a majority of any data sample usually falls in the middle forming a graph which looks like a bell.

Now when you realize this it is inevitable that your view of college changes. You suddenly start to see the professors  and colleagues as resources. They are there to provide for you. And you are there to provide for them. With colleagues you enter into flame wars where you defend your ideas to the last breath and with the professors you suck away at the firehose of information they provide. What is amazing is that you yourself are a part of this ecosystem for other people. College is a place to grow. Where comfort is your worst enemy. Where you find what is it that you would like to do with your life.

In such a case a weapon of mass destruction comes along. Attendance in college is something completely misinterpreted by the masses. It is your choice to attend college. You have chosen to attend. Hence if you miss out it can be due to two reasons. The first and more popular one is that you do not realize the fact that attendance is a choice you made when you enrolled in college. You could have gained the knowledge simply by reading books. It is college you wanted to attend.
The second one is a deeper one and I believe a lot of professors fail to see if a student is not attending due to this reason. You see I came to college to learn from the best. I did not have the one thing that professors have, which is experience.

I myself do not attend a lot of classes. This is a choice. I have had the good fortune of being taught by people like Archana Ma'am, Rakhi Ma'am, Cherian Sir, Prashanto Sir and many more. What they left me with was a thirst for more. Now when I encountered professors who choked the flow of knowledge due to politics or other reasons I stopped attending their classes.
It pained me to hear them say "If you want attendance do this and do that". What they do not understand is that everything happens for a reason. There is a reason students do not attend their classes. Most of the time the reason is popularism and that cannot be cured in my opinion. Yet the few students who do not attend class due to the reason that class offers nothing new. Nothing which cannot be found on the internet or in the text.

I still yearn for the professor who teaches nothing other than what we cannot find on our own. The professor who knows their subject so well that they eat dinner thinking about it. The professor who can recognize that a student is in need of direction. It feels horrible when professors have to use attendance to get people to attend their lectures and yet feel no remorse for it.

This culture completely destroys respect for the lecturer. I myself have had ocassions when reading online became a more viable option than listening to the professor. That is what I did for a lot of time. I still do it sometimes. What I have started doing now is what I call the backbench method. I sit on the last bench and read up on the subject. The class may be on any subject but I only listen to the professor if I feel that they are giving me something I will not recieve from the internet. It is a sad state of affairs where the student has to stumble on the same stones as the professor.