Views: Long days with little action

May 21, 2012 | 11:47 a.m.

For perpetually busy students, what is actually getting done?

Views | Kate Beecken

Views: Managing stress

We're all stressed, but that doesn't explain what we're doing.

Our generation is constantly criticized. We refuse to grow up, spend too much time texting, not enough time communicating, eat too much, care too much about body image, are too relativistic, not tolerant enough, are too lazy and work too hard. Apparently every generation that ever came before us was perfect, and we are trapped in the paradox of being unable to do anything right.

My complaint is that we barely seem to do anything at all.

For a population of students that is constantly rushing around, I can’t figure out what we have accomplished. Everybody’s schedules are booked to capacity, and any requests are prefaced, “I know you’re busy, but could you please...” Yet despite all the motion, what are we actually doing?

Well, according to professors, we’re not spending much time studying. National surveys show that college students actually spend less time doing homework than they used to and anecdotal evidence from those grading papers seems to agree. Whether this is evidence of more efficient studying, thanks to technology, or proof of another problem, it still doesn’t explain the great time suck.

National numbers on student debt suggest that we’re not spending enough time working. Of course, minimum wage compared to skyrocketing tuition prices doesn’t make this the best method of measurement. Yet report after report still shows that we are financially broke and mostly unemployed.

Some insist that this is the time to enjoy as much as possible all the fun that college has to offer, since we have the rest of our lives to be working. But low attendance at Bethel Student Association events demonstrate that campus culture isn’t taking up most students’ time either. According to the echoing hallways all weekend long, most students are either quietly having fun in their dorms with the doors shut or going off campus.

On a larger scale, social justice seems to be a popular buzzword, but are students actually spending their time feeding starving children in Africa? In the minds of a variety of campus leaders I have talked to, apparently not. According to the blinking numbers on my trusty voice recorder, I’ve interviewed over 50 people this year, and almost everyone has told me the same thing. Whether the issue is sex trafficking, immigration, gender, or even unemployment statistics, they are just trying to “raise awareness.” All of these well-intentioned people are determined to educate the sorely misinformed and apathetic student body. So whatever we are spending our time doing, it must not be learning about the world around us, or we’d be far past the education step by now.

This is not meant as an accusation or attack against anybody, because I’m just as guilty. Most evenings, when my roommate asks how my day was, I have to consult my planner just to figure out what happened. Time always seems to swirl away into a big black vortex, where we’re chronically busy but unable to identify any accomplishments.

As older generations turn up their noses at everything that is wrong with us, I’d love to leap to our defense and argue that we are actually doing very noble things. Yet my reply usually gets stuck in my throat as I look around and can’t figure out for the life of me--what are we doing?


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