[Campus commentary]College blues“You can enjoy life after you are accepted to college, so just study hard now.”
These were words that I heard so many times in my teens, and I believed them wholeheartedly. Every time I felt tired studying and preparing for university admission, those words encouraged me to go on. However, barely a month after entering college, I realized that it was just an old fantasy about campus life. The reality, I found, was totally different.
The image of blissfully idle university students is a thing of the past. On campuses today students seem to study so much harder than in the past. The overheated atmosphere in college libraries show present-day students’ enthusiasm. Even freshmen, unlike in the past, never skip a lecture or homework. They really study hard and worry how difficult their first college exams will be.
On the surface, this change in campuses seems quite a positive development since in general, a hardworking student is well regarded. However, you should notice that such a tendency also reveals an aspect of an excessively competitive society. Moreover, today’s students are really passive, just adapting themselves to their circumstances.
Most of the hardworking students on campus are striving to achieve the same things: getting a job or passing examinations for higher office. They are not hard at work in pursuit of learning. Instead of intellectual goals, what they want are only good grades and brilliant careers. This is why the atmosphere in the library cools down as soon as exams end.
Students greatly value a chance to join a good company that pays high salaries, and competition for such a chance is keen. Thus, it’s hard to praise the intentions of today’s hard-working students.
Where then do their long-cherished childhood dreams go? I think today’s competitive society made them lose their own dreams. But society shouldn’t shoulder all the blame; students’ passivity bears scrutiny.
Living in a society where only winners thrive, students become blind to where they are heading and what they really want. Instead, they do what the competitive society compels them to do. They have been so driven by the spirit of competition that they can not distinguish their own desires and values from what society tells them.
What makes their situation worse is that they do not even bother to criticize the harsh competitive system in which they struggle, tired as they are of it. They just accept what they are dealt, and make desperate efforts to survive in this society like cowards.
In the last general elections, the turnout of voters in their 20s, which includes most university students, were the lowest on record. This shows how much today’s students are indifferent toward social issues; one might say they are busy chasing good grades, though there might be another reason for the lowest turnout.
This passive aspect of today’s students differentiates them from students in the past. Students in earlier years were much more critical of social problems. They knew more about what they want out of life, though they seemed to care less about learning. And they played an important role as they spearheaded movements for advancement and change in our society.
However, even though students in the past cared much about social issues and tried to bring about social progress, many problems are arising in today’s society led by them.
What will the society of the future that we shape be like? I am very worried about that.
*The writer is a reporter of the Yonsei Annals news magazine at Yonsei University.
By Kang Ji-sun