A Growing Standard: Student Apathy

I once heard the salutatorian of my school’s junior class say “I hate learning.”

While there’s a rise in standardized test scores, GPA averages, and AP exam participation, can we write this up to a rise in a genuine love for learning as well?

One of the most ill-regarded problems in America is the increased amount of student apathy. Regardless of how competitive college admissions are becoming, the admission officers not only care about scores and GPA, but they also want to find a sincere student, something that is becoming more and more difficult to find.

While we may be able to identify the obvious apathetic student, one that doesn’t do homework or sleeps in class, apathy can come in multiple forms. Like I said earlier, they may be salutatorian of their class, who never has to study and is just inherently smart. Or they could be the student body president, who’s going to rely on their multitude of leadership positions to get into college. A fair amount of these students slip through the college admissions cracks, bringing their apathetic attitude along with them.

At School

It’s often up to teachers to decrease this apathy. For primary school students, teachers must create games and interactive assessments. For high school/college students, teachers must make perfectly laid out powerpoints, filled with all the information for a test. And from this we can deduce that younger students learn best from things that make them think, while older students want it easy, the bare minimum.

However, it shouldn’t solely be up to the teacher. It can be discouraging as a teacher to see your students care so little about a subject you love, and can cause the teacher to feel helpless, or make them leave a profession that they once loved.  If the students aren’t intrigued by a topic, or a certain learning style, than they usually don’t try. “Why should I be engaged if the teachers aren’t engaging?” they may think.

This view of learning is usually fueled from a lack of parent involvement, and the parents not pushing the students to realize that learning is a privilege. Parents, too, believe it is up to teachers to instill a love for learning. And there are cases in which it’s not the parent’s fault either. If the student is surrounded by other students that don’t care, they will see this as the norm, and in turn conform to other students’ disengaged attitudes. Students won’t put in the work if they don’t observe other people’s effort, or if they aren’t being encouraged by someone they respect. They’ll most likely dismiss what they don’t want to do.

In The Workplace

But there’s always that dilemma that occurs in life (most likely adulthood) in which we may have a task we don’t want to do, but that we have to do. Because what can any of us realistically do in that situation? Go into work and tell your employer, “Yeah, I didn’t do the assignment because it was boring. I’ll just take the lower grade”? If that self-motivation isn’t there and isn’t ingrained early on, than it could lead to a indolent individual that lacks a sense of obligation.

Or it could reap a person who only cares about the extrinsic rewards. They don’t gain satisfaction from learning a new topic or attaining a new skill, but from the high figure written on the top of their paper. And while there’s nothing wrong with being personally satisfied from this, it’s toxic when that individual is only concerned about how that figure would be of any benefit to them in the real world. This usually yields the exhausted professional, who works a job they aren’t passionate about, but makes BIG bucks. And while a well-to-do income is always appreciated, wouldn’t you rather appreciate the salary and the work?

So the apathy is deep-rooted, yes. But it isn’t impossible to reverse. If students are smacked with encouraging words from every direction whilst still being challenged, their chances of failure would be greatly reduced (at least I can only assume so). However, if it isn’t reversed, it can snowball into creating a less-than-stellar person, and I would hope you wouldn’t want that to be you. So whether you’re that apathetic student, indolent individual, or exhausted professional, we must realize that learning isn’t permitted to everybody, and it’s an honor we should not take for granted. We should take advantage of our circumstances, and put our knowledge to good use, and make sure it’s knowledge we care about. Give that admissions officer, or anybody else, something to think about.

So ask yourself: Do you really love learning, or do you love the tokens that come with it?


Sources from which ideas stemmed from:







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