The merits of being a terrible student

The senior inquisition

Sheehan Hannan

I am, unlike so many others on our repeatedly snow-drowned campus, a god-awful sack of crap student. I procrastinate. I can’t resist the siren song of Netflix when I should be doing other things. Even the very process of writing this column is a sad attempt to put off doing a bit of real work. To add insult to injury, the time-honored tradition of senioritis started kicking in at about week five of this seemingly endless semester. My professors are probably quietly cursing me as they hunch over their grade books.

But being a bad student isn’t, well, bad. In fact, it’s rather enjoyable. Being a bad student lets you get away with looking at things differently, with challenging the way things are supposed to work. It means looking at what your professors are word-vomiting at you every day, and how it actually applies in the real world. It means using one of your absences to pursue something that makes you genuinely curious.

The process of education is supposed to make us think in progressive ways, open up our eyes to the way the world works. But all too often, education does just the opposite. It teaches us how to pass a test, how to memorize then promptly forget information and, all too often, how to pretend like exorbitant stress is somehow a good thing.

Being a bad student can remedy that. Taking the time to goof off in moderation won’t do wonders for your grades, but it will let you take control of your education, instead of your education controlling you.

For many college students, the consensus that schooling is simply a rite of passage, something to be done on the way to full-fledged employment, means that they’re missing out on the truly fun part: shaping your learning to fit your own needs.

The classroom approach doesn’t work for everyone. Ask around and you’ll find countless stories of former roommates and friends who had to drop out or leave CWRU because it wasn’t what they needed. They typically get painted in the brutal language that cloaks academic discussions at competitive universities, with mentions of how “they couldn’t handle the pressure” or “simply didn’t have what it takes.”

But failure shouldn’t be painted in such a simple black and white. Failure is a good thing. It tells us where our strengths and weaknesses are, brings forth the simple human truth that we are all fallible. Even more importantly, it prepares you for the reality of a wider world in which everything will be less than perfection.

So take the time to fail. I did, painfully and repeatedly, and I am a better person for it. Be a bad student. Grasp for that stupid, interesting thing and don’t let it go. Take the time to explore and fall down on the job. Question your professor’s assumptions, even as you learn from them. Nobody you admire ever got to be where they are by following the beaten path, so why the hell should you?

Sheehan Hannan is a senior English major. He was formerly the director of print for The Observer and the chairman of Media Board. His writing has also appeared in Cleveland Magazine and Inside Business Magazine.