We are students, not machines

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Graphic by Gina Hsu

Every time I ask someone, “Have you been getting enough sleep?” I get a giggle, a sigh, and a response saying “of course not.”

They are dead serious, and the bags under their eyes are packed and ready for a long vacation that is never going to come.

This is often the reality that we face. For some reason, we have to be gladiators that constantly swing away at work without ample rest or nourishment.

Who was it that said things have to be this way?

Who instilled this burdensome fear of failure inside us?

We are stuck in a cage against a lion that just will not die.

We are slaves to a system that is not working for us.

We are students, not machines.

We cannot be taught like a machine learning model that is fed a metric ton of information non-stop around the clock.

Our brains need to try, fail, and rest before repeating the process over again until we succeed.

Whereas a computer constantly moves forward and halts when it comes across a problem, human beings tend to mess up constantly before making leaps and bounds.

Instead, the difference between 90 and 82.75 matters more than the value of truly understanding and comprehending.

I was optimistic once – I used to think that times were changing in favour of those who love to fail in order to learn.

When I first stepped into university, I looked for the heroes who loved to put up a good fight.

I fantasized about hearing the grueling trials, the constant failure, and eventually the victorious summit.

But instead, I see fragile zombies who survive from exam to exam.

All the stories from students I hear now sound like, “good riddance, I am not sure if I am going to miss it.”

It is not your fault.

Most students are still treated like machines.

At the end of the day, real learning is supposed to make you feel like you solved a long and hard puzzle.

You are supposed to feel like you got out of a maze by the skin of your teeth.

So why does it make you feel like you were beaten up?

Why are we constantly pulverized and tortured only to be stepped on a couple of hours later?

University was sold to me as a unique bag of experiences, not torture. Is it the frequency of classes?

Is it the load of trying to juggle a social life with an assignment, two labs, and three midterms that are somehow all due tomorrow?

And if so, are these things working for you or are they working against you?

I understand the value of grades, I really do.

They are a necessary part of education.

But they are not necessarily part of your self-esteem and self-worth.

I understand the value of schoolwork, I really do.

It is a necessary tool for practice.

But it does not guarantee that you will learn something and be able to apply it in real life.

Ultimately, I want you to understand the value of your input.

You are the unsung hero that is just at the beginning of their story.

Heroes do not win right off the bat – things suck constantly along the way.

The difference is that their difficulties work for their betterment in the end.

Failure and triumph are very human concepts.

School does not feel that way sometimes – it feels like it is effort just for the sake of effort.

The difficulties along the way have nothing to do with the goal that we have set out for ourselves. There are things that you can do about this flawed system.

Education often does not equate to learning.

It is merely the process of facilitating learning and the means by which we achieve it.

All our problems with learning fall under two guiding principles – With the ability and desire to know, how and what should I learn?

And, now having learned such, how and for what should I use what I know?

Both of these questions are not things that your school, nor your professor, parents, or peers can answer for you.

You have the ability and the desire to know what you want to know.

And ultimately you will have to decide for yourself how and for what you should use what you know.

If you were a machine, school would be perfect.

However you are not – you are a flawed hero attempting to take on the world. You have to take the system by the horns and steer it in the direction that you want it to go.

You are not a machine, you are a student.

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