Fighting the “It’s just–” Attitude, Part II

Lemonade for your Brain?

Regardless of where you live, and regardless of grade level, there is a hierarchy of schools.  Some are looked up to, others are looked down on, and others escape notice altogether. Some colleges are so highly regarded it verges on awe, others are ignored, and others are made fun of. But going to a school of note doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll come out any better than someone who went to a lesser known school, because whether or not you learn is largely up to you, especially at the high school and college level.

Last semester in one of my classes we had to write a 15-20 page research paper. An older gentleman was particularly concerned about being able to reach the minimum number of pages required and having good content, was asking the professor various “what if” questions, and then, as if to ease the man’s worries, another student said to him, “Don’t worry, it’s just Wayne State.”


I turned and said to that person, “Hey, education is what you make of it.” He then snickered something that I didn’t catch.

Another incident that really bugged me was when recently everyone except myself and a handful of other students were “unable” to access some readings the professor had posted on our school’s Blackboard system.  When we clicked the link she provided, we all got a message from NetLibrary saying “You are not currently viewing any items.” But rather than do the (I think) obvious thing and clicking the “Search” tab, they just decided the system was being “dumb” because “nothing works at Wayne State.”  (Ignoring all the times they’ve used Wayne’s network to do everything from registering for classes, renewing library books, checking account balances, etc etc etc.)

To give some background, Wayne State is a public, 4-year university in Detroit, Michigan. As far as the domestic reputation of Michigan’s public universities goes, (speaking generally, as opposed to the reputation of specific colleges within a university) WSU is not high on the totem pole for various reasons, the most obvious being that it’s in the same state as the University of Michigan. But is that any excuse for allowing yourself to achieve less than what you’re capable of? If Wayne State is a school that is considered academically inferior, yet is the school you’ll be earning your diploma from, doesn’t it make a helluva lot more sense to strive for excellence to try to make your school be better regarded? After all, if people from U of M have the advantage of their school’s reputation working for them, why would you not try to do what you can to better your school for your own sake?  Perhaps it’s hard for some students to feel they’re connected to the university because it is, even after the addition of three dorms, still a predominantly commuter school.  But the entity that is the “university” is ranked according to the quality of its students.  It does not exist separate from them, the students are the university.

<Opposite over Adjacent (Math joke!)>: It’s especially vexing to me when some WSU students say stuff like that because they don’t realize that it is a great university.  Sure, we don’t have as much money, as many resources as some other schools.  People from other states don’t know us because our football team tends not to win too much (though at least they’re not as bad as the Lions!) and the sports we do excel at (fencing and women’s basketball) aren’t followed as closely.  But do they realize how well regarded we are internationally, to the extent we have the second highest number of international students in Michigan?  How well regarded the schools of Nursing, Law, and Social Work are?  That we have not one, but two buildings designed by Minoru Yamasaki (McGregor Memorial and the College of Education a.k.a. “The Wedding Cake”)? But I know there are other WSU lovers like me out there, I’ve met some and I live with some.  Marco? </tangent>

ANYWAY, this is about more than just Wayne State. It’s about any student, at any school, saying “It’s just–” to justify doing less than what they’re perfectly capable of. (Or conversely, riding on their school’s reputation.) It’s never “just” anything. It is what you make it. Will you make it crappy, or will you make it better?

The first line of this post is in reference to this tanka by poet Noriko Ibaragi (Translation by Nobuko Adachi and James Stanlaw):

The mind is getting very dry, but

Do not blame this on someone else.

You yourself have forgotten to give it water.

You should protect your own sensibilities









I keep hearing on TV how people are saying that Barack Obama makes them want to be better.  I’m very happy to hear that, because some anti-Obamaists were saying things like “all of you who think Obama’s going to save you, well, he’s not!” and I thought to myself, they’re right, but for the wrong reason.  I’ve said it on this blog before: I personally don’t believe any politician will ever “save” us.  But I do believe that a great leader has the power to inspire us to action, and it seems like that’s the effect Obama is having.

Let’s be better and fight the “it’s just–” attitude wherever it rears its ugly head!


2 thoughts on “Fighting the “It’s just–” Attitude, Part II

  1. I agree with most of this post, but wanted to point out something. “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education,” said Mark Twain. Yes, university rank is based on many things, including students, but gardeners shape the growth of flowers, inhibiting it in some cases. Nevertheless, as you point out, students should do their best.

  2. Ah, yes, Mr. Twain! His words are certainly true. If anyone relied solely on formal education they would come up short.

    Interestingly, I think teachers in Fine Art are especially worried about that point, because they don’t want for their students to end up just emulating their style. That was my experience, anyway.

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