Thursday, October 25, 2007

"We're Still Just a Bunch of Kids." A Student Waxes on Adulthood.

My list of frequented websites has expanded to include this semester. I bring my laptop to one of my classes to help take notes when the discussion gets too fast (I promise). When the argument dissolves into a semantic debate, I whip up the site, and viola! Problem solved. See how useful computers are in class? (OK, I admit, on slower days I spend some extra time wandering the Internet a bit.)

I've noticed a popular debate on RYS that is somewhat semantic in nature. It has to do with that one word, that high-powered word… we students throw it around expecting fanfares (or at least more consideration) to follow, and professors toss is sarcastically back when our whining disproves its application to us: adult. Why, what does it mean? Ask!

a*dult [uh-duhlt, ad-uhlt]


  1. having attained full size and strength; grown up; mature
    If the large and Neanderthal-like boys (men?) who barely fit in the doorway are any indication, I'd say this one can definitely apply to college students.

  2. of, pertaining to, or befitting adults
    I thought we weren't allowed to use a word in its own definition?

  3. intended for adults, not suitable for children
    What, like, heeheeheesex?


  1. a person who is fully grown or developed or of age
    Fully grown - as in the first definition very possible. Developed? Enough to have a lot of loud sex, apparently.

  2. a full grown animal or plant
    Sometimes we do seem rather like them, I suppose.

  3. a person who has attained the age of maturity as specified by law
    Boom. And that's the issue.

Arrogant and self-absorbed? Slackers, shirkers, and sleepers? Of course we are! We're adults! We finally have a legitimate claim to all the exciting freedoms and privileges that we came to resent in our parents every time they told when we had to be home, when he had to finish our homework, when we could eat and what. Furthermore, the accompanying responsibilities that are meant to sober us up, they aren't essential to our survival yet. The sole requirements placed upon us pertain to academic excellence, and we're already experts at getting by with as little work as possible. Failure to live up to our responsibilities doesn't have dire enough consequences to make us try harder - for the most part, someone else is paying for our living expenses, our housing, our tuition. Nothing is real, yet. We're just a bunch of kids, living together with no idea how to cook, do laundry, or go grocery shopping without buying more potato chips than real food.

Disdainful and needy, at the same time? Of course we are! Of course we scorn the valuable information you give us freely and comprehensively, and then follow you around like incompetent puppies asking for special treatment and more, more, more attention and help. We've graduated high school, gone through application hell to get here, to get into college. All our lives, this was the goal our parents made us work for, college was the reason to do homework or to join the Science Club, college was the ultimate end goal for our parents, and therefore, for us. We've just finished celebrating and saying, guess what Mom and Dad, I made it! And what's this you're telling us? We have to keep doing work, and "make it" all over again?

And on the other side, our professors - the ones stuck teaching the huge intro level course - face year after year of crazy, ecstatic, self-satisfied, newly-freed juveniles, and they have to be wondering, did we get the age of adulthood right? Are we really supposed to treat these people with respect, when they skip class and forget exam dates, forget to shower and wear pajamas all day, when they still waste class time giggling at the word 'penis'?

By law, it is true, we are adults. Does that automatically mean we're mature and that we deserve to be treated like rational, responsible, perfectly capable human beings? Dear lord, no. Eighteen is one day older than seventeen. Just in the way we still need to learn what a derivative is or how to write an effectively persuasive paper (that is why we're taking your classes, isn't it?), we're still learning how to take responsibility, we're still learning how to show humility, how to interact professionally, how to manage our time when it's left up to us. It's completely unreasonable to expect, fresh out of childhood, suddenly away from parents, and out of substandard public education, that we'll suddenly be able to exhibit these skills.

And on the other hand? It's completely unreasonable for us, as brand spanking new adults, fresh out of the factory and new to the grind, to demand respect and equal footing with all the veterans. And yet we still demand it. In a few semesters - and you probably won't know us then - we'll truly begin to grow up, we'll being to be responsible and respectable. But as for right now? Like I said - we're still just a bunch of kids.