I was recently arguing with a friend of mine. Nothing unusual there—we were having one of those exasperating debates over something totally trivial just to try to goad one another over the edge. I thought I was doing pretty well—I had backed him into a logical corner that I was sure he wouldn’t be able to wriggle out of. Just as I was about to drive home the checkmate, he suddenly fell silent.
“What’s the matter now?” I said. “Can’t you see that I’m right?”
“No, you aren’t right,” he said, with a touch of sulk. “I am.”
“How could you possibly be right?” I said. “I have just proved you wrong in every category that you or I can think of, so how, please tell me, could I possibly be wrong?”
I was getting a bit tired of the whole thing at this point, but I had invested so much time and energy that giving up would have made me look like a bit of a pussy.
There was a long silence. Then my friend turned to look me right in the eye, and said something that’s been stuck in my head for quite awhile:
“You know why I never went to university? Because I already know what’s right. I don’t need anyone to tell me anything that’ll change my idea of what’s right because I already know it.”
Now, it would be way too easy to call my friend an uneducated philistine or a redneck or white trash or whatever. It would also be easy to call him closed-minded. But I know from first-hand experience that he isn’t. He’s one of the nicest, most caring people I’ve ever met.
When I was a perky young frosh, like many of you are (I hope), I had been on the “I’ve-gotta-get-to-university” track for so long that I had become convinced that the only way to becoming a useful citizen was through a B.Sc. I thought that those unwashed masses out there that didn’t have the wherewithal to get an 85% OAC average could never appreciate what it meant to contribute; that they would always be stuck in the same patterns of thinking. This was why the world had so many problems, I reasoned—because uneducated people refused to learn what was right. And the keepers of “right” were the educated, of course.
But as I slogged through my five years here, I slowly became aware that university isn’t a place that you’re supposed to go. It’s a place you have to want to go to. You have to be the kind of person whose faith in constancy and whose belief in the “rules” (to be a bit cliché) are always on shaky ground. You have to be willing to admit to yourself that you may not have everything figured out for yourself and probably never will.
You have to be the kind of person that’s willing to sit in a classroom and bat an idea back and forth between you and your classmates until it makes more sense to you—because you saw it in a different light than when you sat your ass down in that plastic chair at ten past the hour.
And this goes for those of you who are enrolled in “harder” subjects like maths or sciences or technologies. Just because the guise of a “right answer” exists in these courses, it doesn’t mean that you can’t look at something from a new angle. That’s how humanity made leaps in reasoning in the first place.
So, to end this bloated and patronizing editorial already: if you don’t want to have your views challenged, this university is not for you. Try a trade school or a college. It’s not that these kinds of schools are any worse or that the students enrolled in them aren’t any good. It’s just a different place for a different kind of person.