My Senior Gift Pictorally: To Think About

Over the five years that I have been in college, I have gained a little knowledge through my "educational" advancement here, but it has not been and was not the "wealth" of knowledge that I was told I would gain by going to college. I am really disappointed! I thought that I would come here and meet people who had open-minds, different cultural experiences (or at least a little knowledge about cultures besides their own—and it's kind of sad that there were even people who were ignorant of their OWN culture), were mature and responsible, but most of all students with a thirst for knowledge; I was wrong.

It wasn't even just the students, some of the professors/instructors that I had were very close-minded (narrow-minded) like many of the students that I had met. I am not sure of why it was, but many of the people that I had met while here at UT seemed to have had very limited experiences (to broaden their minds and view of life and people). It occurred to me that many had never left their neighborhood or community, for those that did, very few of them left Knoxville or Tennessee. Since their experiences were limited by their reluctance to leave their "safe havens" (often times, inhabited by their families and friends for at least 3 generations), they tend to be ignorant about cultures and ethnic groups besides what they see or hear on the news, read in the newspaper, see at/in the movies, read in a fictional book (there was someone who actually thought that she could or would gain information about Blacks by reading a fictional book), or through some other form of the "mainstream" media. This type of life over a period of time can really narrow one's mind and scope of the world, as they begin to think that nothing exists outside of the invisible boundaries that they have put up. Often times, these people have a hard time understanding, talking to, working with, or relating to someone from a different culture, ethnic group, and/or socioeconomic background, etc.

I had hoped to come into this institution and be able to raise and ask questions, however in many classes, the asking of questions was frowned upon by the professor/instructor and sometimes by other students. I had hoped that I could ask questions in my classes that were either directly or indirectly related to the subject and to have unlimited "learning" experiences in the classroom, especially hands-on. I thought that I could come here and "expand my horizons" through discussions with the students and professors, but many students in my classes had had very limited experiences or did not care to hear about or discuss any belief or culture besides their own. I thought that since the professor was in charge of the class, he/she would be willing to try and do new things in class or just be open the different "learning" styles of students. However, instead I was mainly lectured (or dictated) to by an instructor (dictator) who only wanted to hear responses that were from the book or that went along with the view(s) that the professor had on the subject. In most of my classes, the professors/instructors created PowerPoint presentations and read from the lecture notes word-for-word, which makes me wonder how many people were listening when they weren't asleep and if anyone had ever learned anything.

The layout of the classrooms does not and has not helped with the "learning" process, if any is supposed to occur. The layout, however is ideal for making robots (i.e., military formation) out of us students.

Our classrooms with "rows of desks placed in geometrical order, crowded together so that there shall be as little moving room as possible - are all made 'for listening' - for simply studying lessons out of a book. This attitude of listening means... passivity; that there are certain ready made materials...which have been prepared by the school superintendent, the board, the teacher, and which the child is to take in as much as possible in the least possible time. "Another thing that is suggested by these schoolrooms, with their set desks, is that everything is arranged for handling as large numbers of children as possible; for dealing with children en masse, as an aggregate of units, involving, again, that they be treated passively. The moment children act, they individualize themselves; they cease to be a mass, and become the intensely distinctive beings that we are acquainted with out of school, in the home, the family, on the playground and in the neighborhood."

- From If We Were In Charge Reforming Our Schools: 9-5-1999

If coming to college is for the purpose of "expanding our minds" then why do so many leave without doing so? Is this another failure of the "educational system" in this country? In many (far too many) of my classes, I gained no new knowledge, it's sad but true! I feel cheated and that I have been hustled by this university who promised me great things when I came. Even though this is the case, I have not gotten dumber because I have had a few learning experiences, have "expanded my mind" through my work experiences, "building" with my peers and elders, by listening to speakers and lecturers (who have spoken at the University), reading various books and magazines, watching educational programs and movies, and from research that I have done on the Internet and in the library. I have done all of this for free (well, not free—see below), but for a cheaper price than what I have paid to attend this institution of "higher learning."

However, I am glad to say that I had a few professors that had dared to be different by encouraging classroom discussions (this is where much of my "classroom learning" occurred) and for caring if we learned, as they felt that we, the students, were just as important as their research.

Below you will find some of the knowledge imparted by my professors, which I had written down in my notes. Included are quotes (by my professor and from others) that my classmates and I were told by my professors to get us "thinking out the box" and/or to gain a different perspective. I am also including the handouts that I received that impart knowledge. I did forget to mention that many of the quotes and most of the handouts came while I was attending UK (University of Kentucky) last Spring.

During my last semester (Spring 2002), I had the opportunity to take two more English classes (English elective and Humanities requirement) through which my professor engaged the class in many meaningful and enlightening discussions about the books, short stories, and poems that we had read. I think that both classes were beneficial to me as I was able to "expand my mind" through the discussions and material that I read. I am including some of the passages from the "literature" that we read, and if you would like to read the books, you may want to get a copy of them from a library or a bookstore, if you cannot find them at a library.

Last Modified: 30 October 2007 EST