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Jun 16th 2019

The Most Important Lesson College Has Taught Us

2nd place winner John Cox

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers." These words seem like something my parents and any of my friends' parents would say. They express the disapproval of older and wiser generations towards the actions of college students. But these words came from Socrates. The problem of "corrupted" youth is not a problem of this generation only. It's a problem as old as the civilization itself. The problem is that when they were young, our parents and professors saw the world with different eyes. When they were at college, they were rebels. Now, I am part of the rebellious generation. The most important lesson that college taught me is that I should embrace the rebellious spirit and fight against the conformity my parents and teachers push me to accept.

People tend to idealize the times of their youth. When they were young, they felt powerful. They believed they could change the world and they were happy. Today, when they are no longer young, they believe they resonate more realistically. They see young college students and shake their heads in disapproval: "Our time was better. The way we lived, the music we listened to, the movies we watched, the friendships we made... you name it, everything was better. Today's young people don't know anything." That's what my father says, and I cannot do anything about it. It's how the human brain works, and it's probably how I will feel when I'm older. It took me a long time to realize the truth: there always were (and will be) good and bad young people. Each generation has its positive and negative aspects. The behavior of college students is a reflection of the time in which they live.

If our parents and professors truly believe that students today are a disaster, then they should point the finger at themselves and seek part of the blame within them. If the youth was much better before our generation, they did something very wrong to grow an entire generation of broken children. My parents were always trying to convince me I was doing something wrong. When I came to college, the professors were saying the same things. They said we lacked focus, discipline, and will to learn. We only cared about parties, alcohol, friendships, and relationships. But from the first day at college, I realized that I was not the problem. Every other student was going through the same struggles. We all want to learn and achieve good academic results, but we also need to live as much as possible while we're still young. We learn a lot of theory at class, but none of it works without real life experience.

Older generations push us to conform. They push us to learn what they tell us to learn, write the papers they tell us to write, and take exams to prove the knowledge we gained. They measure knowledge and intelligence through tests based on theory. They want us to be theoretically advanced, but no one cares to push us to live and learn from experience. The glorification of the higher education system is not justified. College produces instant graduates, many of which are semi-literate when they enter the job market. They hold degrees that give them foundation to consider themselves genius. They will never accept a reality check suggesting that college is tailored for mediocre individuals. Conformity makes us mediocre, and young people choose to rebel against that pattern. They always have and they always will.

The education system is not built in accordance with the needs of the students and the job market. Universities use false advertising to make students believe that they will gain the ultimate experience and knowledge if they just give their money away. Education is being sold as something that it's not. When students face college, they face huge disappointment and shock. If they conform to those expectations, they will face an even greater shock later on, when they graduate and start searching for jobs. Fortunately, most of them choose to rebel. They see the reality and they believe they have the power to change it, just like our parents and professors thought when they were young. Young people are the driving force of society - that's the greatest lesson that college teaches us. Socrates had it wrong. Young people are not corrupted. They are the progressive force that begs to be considered. Ezra Taft Benson said it well: "Youth is the spirit of adventure and awakening. It is a time of physical emerging when the body attains the vigor and good health that may ignore the caution of temperance. Youth is a period of timelessness when the horizons of age seem too distant to be noticed."

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