In my teens, I helped unearth mysteries and solve crimes with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Later on, I sat in the courtroom and watched Atticus Finch deliver a riveting closing argument in defense of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Recently, through Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, I learned that what passes for conventional wisdom in the society is not necessarily truth. This reading albeit for fun was quite instrumental in laying a foundation for more serious academic work as well as arming me with knowledge that helped me make sense of the various issues I encountered in life. Having profited from the knowledge I gained, I second Mark Twain in his classic assertion that he who cannot read good books has no advantage over him who cannot read at all.
College students today are more concerned with grades than they are with acquiring knowledge. Students have realized the importance of having good papers in order to succeed in the outside world. They therefore endeavor to ensure that the grades they get are spick and span, which is often in great detriment to the knowledge gained in the courses that they pursue. As a result, untold hundreds of students roll out of campus half-baked but with excellent grades at which most employers cannot help but marvel.
Zinssner quotes a fellow professor who bemoaned that in previous years, the key question he would get from students was on how they could make a difference in the world. However, over the years, this question changed to the kind of subject combinations that would be favorable to enable one to pursue a particular kind of course. Such students almost certainly end up not benefiting the society one single bit since all they did was to cram for the sake of passing an exam.