One of two things can happen when you are in school: you either learn something, or you don’t. And when you don’t and you’re forced to at least try, you end up really angry.
I’m not talking about that basic class where you already know all of the answers. There’s potential for learning in an environment like that if you decide to have a little “fun” with the coursework. I’m talking about when teachers are shoving something down your throat and no matter how hard you try, you can’t swallow.
In English 100, we’re learning about the multiverse theory (why, you ask? When I find out, I’ll let you know.) For a homework assignment, we were supposed to read an article by a physicist entitled The Accidental Universe. I would link to it, but looking at it would probably make my skull explode. If you really want to read it, google it, but I want to spare the rest of us the pain of it. The problem I have with this article – the problem I have will all branches of speculative science – is that the scale used is simply over the heads of too many reads, myself included.
I doubt that Lightman intended for the average eighteen-year-old punk to read his piece, so it’s not entirely his fault. Still.
There are claims in this article that make my head spin. Lightman suggests that there are multiple universes (and I thought that the universe was the end-all of units of measure?). Not the multiple universe in Family Guy and Star Trek where there are “alternate realities”, but planets, stars, life, space junk and things we can’t even imagine and will certainly never reach. Even worse — or maybe better — he says that some of them are infinite in size. He rambles on about “dark energy”, which sounds more like something Dumbledore would say than any legitimate scientist. The man says right there on the first page that we could be living in “an accidental universe. We are living in a universe uncalculable [sic] by science.”1. Nice job with the spelling, doc. And just for clarification, I’m mostly sure that Lightman wasn’t the first to propose any of this, aside from his ridiculous line about the accidental universe. I can confidently say that the line was written only to shock readers.
I’m legitimately angry after having to stumble through six pages of this and then analyzing it for a freshman English course. This isn’t something that should be forced upon students. There are things in school that you don’t understand. That’s what learning is: the process through which you begin to understand something foreign.
But in this case, we’re not talking about refusal to comprehend. We’re talk about a lack of sufficient scale. Personally, I have a hard time thinking on that large a scale. I can’t imagine a campus larger than ten thousand people, and now I’m expected to think properly in the context of several universes? There’s so much terminology I don’t understand, so many concepts I just haven’t gotten, that picking up a piece like Lightman’s and expecting to understand a word of it is outrageous.
Now, if this were a science course, or even something at the three- or four hundred level, I wouldn’t have any reason to complain. But I didn’t sign up for English 100 to detangle the multiverse theory. This is something that goes against my religious understanding of life. This is something that I’m completely unprepared for. And I’m going to be graded on it for at least the next few weeks. I’m going to be thrown into this frustrating world at least three times a week and try to make a case for something I don’t understand and certainly don’t believe in. How is that education?
As my first year of college is winding down, I realize that even the higher education system has flaws – many, many flaws. Flaws that make me question the validity of college, of plunging myself into student debt and unhappiness for the sake of a piece of paper. This won’t be the first time I’ve said this, and I doubt it’ll be the last.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just ranting because I’m angry. But I think that I’m right.
1 Lightman, Alan. “The Accidental Universe”. Harpers. December 2011. Web. 2 April 2014.
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