With four long and arduous years of post-secondary education and a kinesiology degree under my belt, I decided it was time to stretch my wings and expand the horizons of my intellectual pursuits. After labs, computers and cadavers, I was ready for something less scientific, less defined and a little more subjective.
Accordingly, this September I registered in two political science classes.
I think one thing should be made clear about political science: it's very political but not necessarily scientific. The subject matter is fascinating, complex and challenging and I genuinely enjoy listening to my professors. The contributions from my classmates, on the other hand, have revealed to me an aspect of classroom learning I never encountered during four years in kinesiology--that of alienation and exclusion. There is no end to discussion on the theories, interpretations of the theories, tangential postulations on the interpretations of the theories and arguments over the tangential postulations on the interpretations of the theories. These discussions are at best animated and at worst confrontational, but rarely productive or helpful to those interested in academic discourse. I cringe every time a student challenges a professor, which means I do a lot of cringing. Of course, I cheer every time a professor shows a student how little they have accomplished with flamboyant, argumentative extrapolations of rhetoric. Still, the need to put show-offs in their place is alien to me.
I come from a background where everyone walked in understanding we were there to learn, knowing no one was better than anyone else--an environment that was incredibly conducive to learning. I am not saying critical thinking or discussion are lacking in what I'll arrogantly term "true" science courses, but I never had the sense a classmate was trying to put me down, undermine me or in any way be more right than I was. Classmates were resources for each other, not antagonists. We got more from our lectures, labs and cadavers as a result. I really miss that approach.
For now, all I can really do is huddle in the corner of my classes and watch, wide-eyed, as the drama of political dialogue unfolds around me. Maybe in time I'll grasp the "education through denigration" mentality I've seen prevail among my poli sci classmates but in truth, I hope I don't. I have spent four years learning through dialogue rather than monologue, and through cooperation rather than confrontation. So far, my level of interaction in poli sci classes has been minimized by the attitudes displayed by my classmates and I find it truly ironic that after four years of kinesiology classes, I am on the bench for the first time.