Raquel’s Column: On the pursuit of knowledge


The Chinese teacher began class by asking us why we decided to take this course.

My reasons for wanting to learn Chinese were as good as those of any other third-grader; the written words looked like pictures, the language sounded like guttural sounds that would be endless fun to pronounce, and adults unanimously agreed it was a very important language.

Most importantly, Chinese was the only language that was introduced in a series of afterschool courses being offered, which to me meant more learning, and consequentially, more fun. I already had access to the wonders of English and Spanish, so learning another language was appealing.

However, these reasons dissipated from my consciousness as soon as I heard the uninspiring responses from my classmates. Almost everybody’s reason was that their parents had enrolled them in the class; they weren’t taking the class of their own accord.

My peers’ apathy to the class felt alienating, so when it was my turn to answer, I too conjured the generic, “My parents made me take this class,” despite the fact that I had asked my parents to take the weekly course.

I’m not claiming intellectual superiority or integrity by emphasizing I was the only person willingly taking the course, but when I contemplate this moment, I realized that there is a widely accepted apathy to learning, which is a result of taking too many classes that don’t evoke intellectual curiosity. The classes that fulfill this curiosity vary with each person.

I firmly believe that everybody loves learning, or at least is predisposed to learning. It’s part of natural selection; individuals who observe and learn from their environment avoid committing the errors of others and live longer. Anyone reading this has descended from a line of ancestors who learned at every opportunity to persist in living long enough to procreate.

This pursuit of knowledge seems to be constricted by the peer pressure and individual pressure one may feel to take classes that look best on a transcript. Taking classes out of curiosity is seen as foolish and fickle, and the stakes are often too high, when transferring is a tedious and discouraged process.

There are those necessary classes that cannot be evaded, but those lamentations, while justifiable, are part of a larger issue in the education system that need to be addressed by seasoned education experts and experienced teachers.

However, there are inward attitude changes one can make to embrace learning. Indulging in further exploration of subjects I find fascinating, such as English or history, has kept me motivated to seek knowledge and remain true to myself. I am referring to unapologetically enjoying certain school subjects.

Although trying new classes and areas of learning is a cultivating experience, some classes never incite more than contempt from students. This is also part of the learning process; that’s a subject best left alone.

While my interest in Chinese was short-lived, I still value the experience of experimenting with a novel subject. I strive to enroll in as many intriguing, intellectually-stimulating classes as I can in college. My parents and I will be paying for them; I can’t afford for them to be classes I won’t be fully invested in.

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