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Can’t trust the younguns with the critical thinkin’.

Oh, for the love of God. You don’t see self-parody this good every day, so savour the moment as you witness an instance of the barrel of fish that is guerilla politics:

By my junior year of college I’d had enough of the credit card advertisements.

They were on every bulletin board on campus. They were on the boards in the mailroom, in the dorms, even on the boards of the various academic departments.

…I took down the ads. Every last one of them…I carried a staple remover wherever I went.

So the point here is, if you’re a college student, or a college professor, or even if you’re the parent of a college student: Get yourself a staple remover.

Well, speaking as a college instructor, my entire work rests upon the illusion that students are adults, capable of rational thought and analysis of the world around them. Consequently, I strive to challenge their brains with facts and theories, rather than shield their sensitive eyes from things that I’ve “had enough” of. So, last semester, rather than remove the ads whose revenue helps offset my students’ tuition and related fees, I addressed their mounting credit card debt in a fashion even more radical for this West Coast campus: I educated them.

My subversive political action was taken straight from the syllabus of the Discrete Math for Social Science course, required by all first year social science programs here at Island U. Sometime in November, between the linear program section and just before we got to probability, I taught a unit on financial mathematics. I found this section a lot less interesting than the rest of the course, but taught it with the same enthusiasm that I bring to all of my classes. And something strange happened: for the first time ever (other than at camp), my students were more interested in a topic than I was. One kid, who sat front row centre, summed it up: “This stuff is useful.”

In three or so weeks, my students learned how compound interest worked. They learned that paying a credit card bill two months late is more than twice as bad as paying it one month late. They learned that by putting $20/month in an RRSP, starting now, they’d be able to withdraw hundreds every month for retirement. They learned how much less of their own money they’d have to pay back on a loan if they set up a sinking fund. One day, after class, a student told me that she wasn’t going to make any more credit card purchases until her card was paid off. Another girl, fresh out of high school, informed me that she was going to start saving for her retirement now.

And, all due respect to Pink Floyd and all – that, kids, is the difference between education and thought control. Teaching can be a depressing vocation at times, but it would be a downright futile one if it truly were so that university students’ intellects were so fragile that they would forever be powerless to avoid getting sucked into a vortex of credit card debt, but for the valiant actions of those brave guerilla warriors who wield staple removers. (And even then, they’d only be safe on campus. Once they saw a billboard or turn on a television, there’d be no rescuing them.)

So the point here is, I’ll pass on the staple remover, I’ll turn down the offer of same should a concerned friend of mine present me with one, and I’ll kick the ass of give a good talking-to to any student of mine I catch removing credit card ads in the name of protecting their peers the unwashed masses.

But if I ever saw a student of mine defacing said ads with the compound interest equations and calculations pertinent to the interest rate offered – that, now, would be a happy day for this college educator.

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