Sep 282009
Authors: Guest column Anne Marie Merline

I am wondering how invested you are in the classes that you are taking this semester. I ponder this topic because of how students in my honors seminar about public education and inequality are invested in that class.

One question I ask my students in every class is why they are in this particular course. I understand there isn’t much room for taking classes for the heck of it, or because you are interested in a topic and enjoy it.

Most students take courses because it is required. You have a course of study that you are committed to, and the less time you spend on campus, the less money you spend in the pursuit of the almighty dollar or yen or whatever currency you call your own.

In the honors program, the students can choose the seminars they take to fulfill their honors requirements. Since I have been with the program for seven years, I have become immune to the fact that students take my seminar because it fits into their schedules.

I’ll admit that the topics I teach are not the best things since sliced bread. But, this semester I have been pleasantly surprised. More than half of the students are enrolled in this seminar because they plan to go into teaching, and the history of public education and inequality will serve them well in their careers.

This class is much like my classes on consumerism and the environment that I taught and wrote about last semester. We start off in class with an extemporaneous speech by one of the class members, and bam, there goes the rest of the class time that we have together.

Opinions fly and questions are asked. I have little time to present the material that I have prepared. There’s no need, to some extent, because the students do that for me. At the end of class, I step in to add any important perspectives that they did not cover in our discussion.

In my opinion, this is how education is supposed to be. The students in this class are invested in the information being presented. They come to class prepared and are not afraid to take on the tough issues.

We have fun learning but delve deeply into the topic at hand in order to understand the opinions, facts and experiences of those who are a part of the public education system. We are learning about our collective and individual histories so that these students can best serve their future pupils. We try to understand what is best for all of us in terms of equal treatment in the public realm.

So I ask my question again: Are you as invested in the courses that you are taking this semester as my students? Many of us enter our undergraduate years with majors in mind that can make us a healthy living.

I know we all want the “American Dream.” But few of us realize that there are more things important than a white picket fence. I have realized this halfway though life. Life is only worth living if you do what has real meaning to you, and to the communities of people (and other creatures) that we live with.

Don’t let anyone talk you into studying something that does not resonate in your heart. Find your passion, become educated and use your knowledge and skills to better the world of which you are a part.

It is important that you enjoy the courses that you take because you will be studying what you will be doing for a very long time. If you think that four or five years of your life is a long time, count down to retirement. Make all of your time studying and working fun and worthwhile.

Anne Marie Merline is an instructor for the University Honors Program. Her column appears biweekly Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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