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Monday, July 22, 2024

The Philosophy of Education: Stand Up

How many of us have the courage to speak our minds at the risk of offending others? For example, if we cannot understand a professor due to a thick accent or mumbling, would we go to the professor after class and say so?

If we lack the courage to stand up for ourselves, others will not address our needs and concerns because they will not know we are troubled. If we do not understand or can not hear what a professor is saying but do not raise our hands to ask out of fear of embarrassment or insulting the professor, the professor will not repeat.

However, that fear is only in our minds. Most professors sincerely want us to learn, but if they do not know that we do not understand, they will move on. In addition, if you thought a professor’s explanation was confusing, chances are many others feel the same way and will thank you for asking, not look down on you as stupid.

Standing up for ourselves for relatively minor things like asking a question in class takes much less courage than standing up for more important issues, but we must face our fear and do so.

For example, if we realize that our current major is not for us during our third or fourth year here, we should take action by telling our parents and switching majors. If we do so, we will have to spend an extra year or more at the university, but we will have the career that is right for us for the next forty years. The extra time here and the associated costs are worth forty years of doing what we love.

On the other hand, we could do nothing out of fears such as that our parents will not support us financially or emotionally. If we do so, everybody around us will think that we like our current path and thus do nothing, leaving us unhappy with our majors and classes, which will become our careers.

The unhappiness will not go away by toughing it out until graduation; rather, it will become harder to escape as we commit ourselves more. We cannot rely on an external miracle; we must take action to create that miracle ourselves.

For example, in recent years, many students stood up for themselves against tuition increases. They did not fear what others might think and accepted the consequences of their actions, good or bad. When other students saw these actions, they found the courage to take action as well. As a result of these fearless actions, tuition has not increased, benefiting all of us.

Similarly, we should stand up for ourselves and make decisions with the attitude of accepting the consequences, no matter what they may be. If we have never had the courage to make important decisions for ourselves and thus always let our parents decide, they will naturally feel that they need to constantly watch and control us. They will assume that we cannot take care of ourselves, which makes us feel powerless and miserable.

However, our parents act that way because they honestly believe we cannot do anything ourselves. We should consider their advice, but make our own decisions. If we have the courage to make important choices ourselves, such as deciding not to be a doctor even though they want us to be, they will see from our actions, not our words, that we can take care of ourselves. Afterwards, they will back off and become less manipulating.

If we never stand up for ourselves, our parents will never see us as independent and thus will try to control us forever, even when we are fifty, likely making us miserable.

At the same time, we must remember that not everything is worth the time and effort to fight for. For example, spending an hour arguing with a professor about one point on a midterm is not a good idea. The point, even if obtained, will almost never affect the final grade and will not increase our understanding of the subject.

If you believe something is worth standing up for, do so fully without reservation. If you believe it is not worth standing up for, accept it as it is without complaint. Do not stand in the middle; commit yourself to a decision and then stick to that decision until something changes.


To share your experiences with standing up for yourself, contact WILLIAM CONNER at wrconner@ucdavis.edu.



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