I should probably start off with one of my favorite quotes from a favorite book. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby)
Admit it, we tend to poke fun at the hillbillies in the southern woods of Tennessee, And society as a whole generally looks down at someone with a menial job.
I guess I used to join in the laughter. It was so silly when my uncle thought you could open the windows during an airplane ride. How did he not know temperatures at altitudes of 10,000 feet were below freezing point?
But his ignorance doesn’t give me the right to ridicule him. Plenty of people have never studied physics. It’s true that knowledge is power, but doesn’t that just emphasize how we should be responsible with the power? Imagine a little boy who asks the teacher a naive question, and the teacher snorts, “How can you not know that? Psh, idiot!” in return.
It’s not necessary to gloat about prestige and intellect. Unfortunately, when you mesh with a bunch of 20-year-olds in college, you tend to get full heaps of gloat.
So now comes the fun part: unofficial case studies of fellow peers.
There are several college students I know who relish in the fact that they’re knowledgeable. They know they’re smart. . . oh, do they know it. And you’ll know it too–not because they’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize or the Fulbright or anything, but because they make it known.
Whenever they can.
Of course, they do it discreetly. You know that saying about never noticing anything small until it happens directly to you? (No, I haven’t heard that saying either; I just made it up actually.) Basically, when they’re not talking to you, you don’t realize anything’s off. They seem pretty modest, in fact. They’re eager to learn and happy to share knowledge. Then you have a direct one-to-one conversation with them, and. . .oh.
Let’s do a case study of Alex* and Bob*
Senior in Undergrad
Studying Pre-Law/ Political Science
Alex likes to read big books, or “philosophies of conservative political theory,” as he likes to put it. Able to make off-the-top references to obscure case laws and statutes, he is a good asset on any debate team. Hey, this kid is pretty cool! He is cool. . . until he brings those references up in a completely unrelated discussion in class and actually tries to debate with the professor.
The professor answers calmly. Alex shoots another response even more off-topic. The professor begins to look flustered and finally mentions how the class needs to move on for now, and “we can talk about it after class.”
Side note: Professors have office hours; some stay after class for 30 minutes to an hour, happy to answer students’ questions about the lecture and other things. (Tip: This is the time, pre-college students, to bring up tangents and thoughts.) It’s usually a one-on-one conversation, so debating is even easier! But lo and behold, Alex is nowhere to be seen after class. But he was so passionate about that thing he brought up in class! Now is the perfect opportunity to discuss more with the professor! Why isn’t he here? Because there’s no audience.
Or maybe he’s busy, a good scientist thinks. (A good scientist should always think of all possible scenarios). You walk out the classroom, and. . .oh, there’s Alex, lounging in the front hall by himself and surfing Facebook. Okay then.
Facebook status updates:
Alex is studying for the LSAT, and he makes it publicly known every 15.4 hours that he is “going through another practice test, #38 here I come” and “just studied for the LSAT for 5 hours straight, ugh.” Sure, one or two posts complaining about your predicament won’t hurt anyone, but by the 29th identical post, there’s some suspicion that maybe you’re doing it for. . .you know. . . other reasons. *cough*
Junior in Undergrad
Studying Philosophy and Business
Bob likes to use the words “swag” and “YOLO.” As in, whatever happens, happens; I’m here to enjoy life, bro! He likes to give a thumbs-up at the camera, holding a can of warm beer in the other hand. He also likes making crude jokes, but in today’s generation, everyone does.
He likes conversations. Man, I wonder what he and X are talking about; X is getting really animated. Now Bob is talking to Y and Z, and Z is raising her voice. . .Y is laughing, but she doesn’t look happy. Meh, Bob must be a joker.
That hypothesis was partially correct. Bob is a troll. He likes to disagree with people solely to argue.
Side note: Variety is the spice of life, and the diversity you find in college gives you a new perspective on the world. It’s cliched but true. You’re bound to disagree with some people, and some people are bound to disagree with you. But when you try to claim that volleyball is not a real sport and that Obama is not doing his job, in a 30 minute time frame, you’re not going to yield happy faces.
I guess I realized Bob’s argumentative nature firsthand during a group conversation. We had just taken a mock standardized test and had gotten our scores.
Conversation was about percentiles, how to score higher, etc. Needless to say, I was getting bored by the topic.
Me: (half-jokingly but trying to be encouraging) Don’t worry guys, in a few years we’ll all score the top score!
Bob: Uh, I’d like to keep a realistic view, thanks.
I don’t know how you’re supposed to respond to that. I really don’t.
Facebook status updates
Bob posts 4 times a day about his self-founded peer-established review journal, making sure to emphasize the connections with other elite institutions. His most recent post was “I just love getting too much fee waivers for grad school :).” Which was identical to another post made only 3 days ago.
Conclusions: Alex and Bob represent a larger portion of gloaters, the population present at any college campus, state, and country. I can name 5 people off the top of my head right now who are amazing achievers but never, ever mention their academics and successes. One of them TAs for two classes, is an assistant researcher, and tackles 20 credit hours a semester. But you’ll never know; her Facebook is clean of even the tiniest gloat.
What’s the solution? I guess there’s not much you can do but ignore the situation. After all, ignorance is bliss.