Don’t neglect our community — extend college beyond classes

Column by Chad Reese

Imagine a world where you never achieve anything of substance.

Instead of writing new novels, authors merely discuss great classics of the past until their symbolic meanings have been thoroughly examined. Engineers no longer search for innovative ways to build bridges or utilize new materials, but constantly study our current techniques until they have a complete understanding of contemporary building techniques.

This, ladies and gentleman, is the world in which far too many of us already reside.

University undergraduate classes and student organizations seem solely designed to prevent real accomplishment from standing in the way of mindless repetition and ambition-driven goals.

Consider, if you are an Arts and Sciences major, the last foreign-language class you took. If, like most students, you were not a foreign-language major, what benefit did you find from three or four semesters of a language class?

Two years after you graduate, will you be able to remember half as much as you learned for your last Spanish test?

I’m not claiming that these classes do not have meaning. After all, knowing about a foreign culture and being able to speak a foreign language are invaluable skills.

However, the requirements placed upon students give us too little education to be competent in our languages of choice after only three semesters. And if our goal is to study the culture of a foreign country, then learning how to conjugate dozens of verbs is nearly useless.

Still, I do not mean to paint foreign-language departments as the sole culprit of this dilemma — nearly all undergraduate courses at a university as large as UK expect students to fit into a cookie-cutter fashion of learning.

For a liberal-arts institution that claims to want to produce well-rounded, educated individuals, UK does a miserable job of individualizing the educational needs of its students when it places them in classes of several hundred other students.

Furthermore, we as students are responsible for similar failures when we create campus organizations. Caught up in a never-ending game of resume-building, our clubs on campus seem more obsessed with networking and finding internships for their students than with improving our community.

If a student at this very newspaper were offered the chance to do a meaningful story here or accept an internship getting doughnuts and pouring coffee for a nationally respected newspaper, which choice would they take? I wish I were more optimistic and willing to believe that they would write the meaningful story.

Despite being an amazing source of youth, energy and ability, our student population seems content to put off any “real work” until after graduation. We seem to believe that we have no responsibility to make a serious effort in improving our community until after we finish our college education here.

Of course, given the fact that UK helps set the example that our undergrad education is merely a stepping stone on the way to research grants, how can we be expected to do any better?

The answer should be evident. Students at UK possess some of the most diverse talents in the Lexington community. However, far too many of us are content to ignore the needs of the city that sustains us in search for our own financial and career-advancing success in the future.

I do not mean to sound entirely pessimistic. After all, there are plenty of students who volunteer their time on a regular basis and use those talents to improve the world around them. Still, this does not excuse others who use their college years as nothing more than a means to an end.

An institute of higher learning can exist only when the community around it flourishes. If Kentucky remains neglected by those who benefit the most from its success — namely, its students — then we have no right to be surprised when the community around us can no longer support an institute like UK.

Each one of us has the responsibility to think about what we’ve done to make the world around us a better place since coming to college and whether we’d trade a chance to make a real difference for personal gain. No one wants to view oneself as selfish, and many overly career-oriented students have the best of intentions, but it is irresponsible to ignore self-reflection when we have so much to lose.

Chad Reese is a philosophy and political science junior. E-mail op[email protected]