Reality Check: In Defense of The Busy

Feb. 10, 2011, 12:29 a.m.

Reality Check: In Defense of The BusyAs I bear witness to ever more Op-Ed and The New York Times prophets, it becomes increasingly apparent to me that there is a certain disconnect between those who are excessively burdened with academics, and those that ruminate yearly on how to de-stress them. While more tightly regulated articles craft factoids, snippets and reams of research into factors and causes, The Daily’s past is riddled with quasi-useful stories about how columnists have dealt with stressful and busy times. Perhaps the most infuriating prescription recommended by peers through history — this “ignore your deadlines and go have fun” paradox — has never been explicitly challenged. Not to my satisfaction, anyway, and I’m not so introverted as to think I’m alone in my malcontent. I thought I’d take the time to compile a few of the faults with this silly tidbit of advice, in the hope that we as a university might move beyond such superficial jargon to a more productive solution.

Ignore your deadlines and go have fun” necessarily attributes a frivolousness to the deadlines of your average Stanford student.  Sure, you have a paper due, but your favorite band is swinging through Palo Alto. You might never see them again!…In Palo Alto…But who cares, it’s just a paper, you need to enjoy your life. On the flipside, this particular paper could be worth a hefty percentage of your overall grade. You might get home too enthralled by the memory of the awesomeness and forget all about the paper, or do such a piss-poor job on it that you are forced to rewrite it. Maybe the professor is so sickened by the work that they refuse to let you rewrite it. Heck, there are classes lurking out there with papers worth 30-50 percent of your final grade. Is this the type of deadline that should be shirked? Even problem sets, arguably the most tedious form of busy work I’ve encountered here on the Farm, add up. Missing one might only minimally impact your grade, but it will severely impact your understanding of the material. Last week’s PS #5 could be next week’s exam question #7, and there is no way to predict for such a thing.

In the same vein, most advice-giving Op-Ed writers take the stance that their busy friends somehow are oblivious to the fact that they are busy and need a break. Now, I only have a cursory knowledge of the wide variety of majors, but as a pre-veterinary biology major, I can safely say that no day goes by where I’m just passively fulfilling my prerequisites. Most of them threaten to jumpstart that apathetic part of me that wants to major in underwater basket weaving. Would I like to take a break? Of course. It is always just a matter of closing my textbook. Considering how little of what we do applies to our individual passions, I’d say it is a testament to the resolve of the Stanford student that we aren’t all out chatting with friends, plaiting each others’ hair and “bro-ing” it up around the Oval.

Ultimately, I strongly believe these misguided Op-Ed folks of yesteryear have mainly missed the mark by addressing students about their lack of free time. When it comes down to it, you didn’t mandate 15 hours worth of studying for a three-unit class. You didn’t teach a lecture series such that office hours become less of an option and more of a necessity. It boggles the mind to think that my fellow student, someone who is just as bogged down by exams, reading assignments, practice work and other minutiae as I am, could ever put more pressure on me as an individual by saying that I need to work harder to fit in more time for myself.  Here would be a perfect place to introduce a mechanic altering entity, something that could actually enforce the boundaries on schoolwork to help promote students leaving their rooms/the libraries/whatever other little place they’ve found to hide and scribble in. Stanford itself, and not its student body, should take charge of the humdrum tomfoolery that is the unit to effort ratio. Babbling at us does little to change the nature of the machine, over which we have paltry power.

Busy and want to commune from your scribble location? Alex wants to hear it!  Email her with comments at [email protected].

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