Silence Is Consent

Participation is essential for student and teacher growth

by Published: Feb 27, 2013

I have been a stu­dent for a long time, with sta­tuses rang­ing from part-time, full-time, time off and overtime.

Many pro­fes­sors have stood before me, and I have stood before many pro­fes­sors. Some of them were good, some bad and a small minor­ity were absolutely bril­liant. Throughout this process of enlight­en­ment, one fac­tor has always held true—my com­plic­ity in the outcome.

As stu­dents, our level of par­tic­i­pa­tion in lec­tures, our out­side research, stay­ing after class to dis­cuss con­cerns and the pres­sure we exert upon edu­ca­tors in quest of mas­tery and under­stand­ing of class mate­r­ial is what helps make the bad ones good and the good ones great.

Perhaps more impor­tantly is how this behav­ior works to pro­mote an atmos­phere of learn­ing by help­ing class­mates feel com­fort­able ask­ing ques­tions and shar­ing their per­spec­tives. Conversely, our apa­thy con­tributes to let­ting the great edu­ca­tors only be good and some­times let­ting the good ones go bad while also work­ing to oppress our over­all learn­ing potential.

Though we all stand as indi­vid­ual human beings, in a class­room, we tend to become social mir­rors when in real­ity we should be more like win­dows. I did not always look at it this way, but with expe­ri­ence and matu­rity, I began to truly grasp just how priv­i­leged I was to have the oppor­tu­nity to study at an American uni­ver­sity and decided to pull up my blinds and make the most of my time in the classroom.

Early on, edu­ca­tion is so com­pul­sory that it becomes oner­ous. In high school, an ortho­dox cur­ricu­lum is beat into your head in spite of the many unspeak­able con­tra­dic­tions often found at the homes of friends, on tele­vi­sion and through direct inter­ac­tion with society.

Upon com­ing to col­lege, the unspeak­able became the active dis­course, and that is when I and many other stu­dents who dis­liked high school began to thrive.

I have seen some of the weak­est high school stu­dents become shin­ing stars, while others—seemingly brain-washed—are unable to snap out of it. People are scared to be crit­i­cal of them­selves, their peers, their cur­ricu­lum, their teach­ers, cor­po­ra­tions and gov­ern­men­tal insti­tu­tions. They fear after-school deten­tion, being labeled some­thing unde­sir­able, being locked up in a gulag, hurt­ing feel­ings or los­ing friends. The bot­tom line is that they fear something—I know I did.

Next time, before going on rate​mypro​fes​sors​.com to bash a pro­fes­sor, think about what you brought to the table as a stu­dent. Teachers, before label­ing your stu­dents and cre­at­ing a self-fulfilling prophecy, think about how respon­sive you are to stu­dent con­cerns, both the spo­ken and the mir­rored. Make it clear that crit­i­cism is wel­come and that con­cerns should be addressed, even if it makes your job a lit­tle harder.

The abil­ity to be crit­i­cal and share our unique per­spec­tives is what has helped America become so great. It is at the heart of our sys­tem of checks and bal­ances, the fuel of com­pet­i­tive drive and the sun­light upon the soil hous­ing the seeds of inno­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity. It is what has pro­moted jus­tice and lib­erty for all.