State of the Student

According to Theodore Sizer, students need to cultivate eight ideas or habits to make them a better student in exploring American culture and the American character. All of these habits are in one way related to another, and through their mastery, one can fully appreciate American Literature.

The first habit is the habit of perspective, which means how well one sees the various parts of the whole, and how these parts are separated into fact and fiction. It is also to be able to value each part for their worth. I personally have a problem with separating the major ideas from the minor ideas. When reading the history book, The Enduring Vision, I always end up taking too many notes, because I feel the need to get down every specific detail. When I don’t, I feel as if it will come back to haunt me in the future, and in no way of taking to many notes helps me learn. Just because I wrote it down does not yet mean I have retained that information. What I have learned is that it usually does come back to haunt me, because the 25/20 tests are very specific, testing us, the students on information not at all relevant to the main ideas of that time period. But besides that, I can separate between opinion and fact, because an opinion is how somebody feels according to their own ideas, while fact is true. Nothing can dispute fact, and fact is usually backed up with evidence. This reminds me of when my biology teacher was teaching us about evolution last year. There is evidence for evolution that supports Darwin’s theory of evolution, these pieces of evidence have not yet been disputed, and that is why it is a theory. True, that is can never be proved, and nobody will ever be able to say it is true, but it is also true that nobody has been to “prove” otherwise. Then one girl asked, “What if I believe in creationism?” The reply to that was, “You can’t dispute evidence.” I believe that religion is an opinion, while science is a fact. This year, I feel I can work on finding a main idea instead of focusing on useless details, with history as an exception. When I read or listen, I will read or listen to the whole thing, and then decide what it or who was trying to tell me, which is usually the main idea. When I write, I will first develop what I want to tell the audience, and then write accordingly based upon that idea.

The second habit is the habit of analysis, which means how well a person can interpret the ideas they have retained. Everybody sees things differently, and that is why analysis is so important. One positive aspect of group work is that because everybody has different ways of interpreting the same reading for instance, we tend to learn more, and see the main idea in a way we may not have thought of before. Then we can formulate or revise our own ideas on what others are thinking if we agree with them. There is a quote, I do not remember the author, but it went, “Copying from one person is called plagiarism, but copying from more than one person is called research.” I find this amusing, because come to think it, it is true. It is against the law to base our idea on the idea of just one person, but to see the ideas of many different individuals, and then formulating our own idea is not just legal but also encouraged. I’m going to bring this back to biology again because it is a subject with which I feel comfortable. In labs, there are sections called date, analysis, and conclusion. In the date is where we write what happened in the experiment. In the conclusion is where we write why the experiment happened the way it did. But in the analysis, is where we do our mathematical calculations, where we put our graphs, and were the data is converted into usable information. This should be the same with all other subjects too, because the analysis is where the person interprets the data and actually makes it useful. To better my habit of analysis in specifically American Literature, I must think logically, I must think the way the author would think, instead of what I would think.

The next habit is the habit of imagination, which essentially means to be able to see outside the realm of how everybody else views things. Believing of what everybody else believes will do nothing for our future, because it is the minds that wander off, that bring us to the next level. If I disagree with something, I will say it, regardless of how the rest of the people or the rest of the crowd feel. There’s no use in lying, because honesty will set you apart from the rest. We live in a society that encourages individuality so much, but it doesn’t work that way, because people still get persecuted for being “different.” I’m sure it is much better now than it was before for instance Copernicus was persecuted by the Church for believing the Earth revolved around the sun, instead of the normal belief of a geocentric universe. Here’s another example of where religion is opinion and science if fact. Huxley once wrote a book we all know as A Brave New World. At the Genetics Conference with Same Rhine that I attended today, this book came up a lot, because his science fiction ideas that sprung from his imagination are science facts in the twentieth century, now. Not even fifty years ago, did two scientists named Watson and Crick discover that DNA is a double helix, and now scientists are mapping out every gene in the human body. This project is called The Human Genome Project, which will probably be completed by March of year 2000. So just imagine what will happen in twenty years, Gattaca will come true. In order to develop a good imagination, I must think “outside the nine dots,” I must not always “go with the flow,” and I must tell others what I believe especially if they believe otherwise, but most importantly, I must not be afraid of what why will think.

The fourth habit is the habit of empathy, which means understanding how others feel and not persecuting them because they are different. I have no problem with saying I can understand how somebody feels, because I have an open mind, and because I am usually somebody different, or at least I try to be. I will always respect all people, and I will always go into new things with an open mind. I have friends that constantly bash what I love to do, and I am constantly made fun of, and it has even gotten to the point where they say rude things about my parents. Friends? That’s disputable, but in the end, I know it will all pay off. It is already paying off, because I get paid more for an hour than they do in two. This is not to say it is all about money, but I also love what I’m doing, and I know they couldn’t hate their job more. CTY, Math team, Boehringer (Partners in Science), and recently this Genetics Conference has been easy targets, but I try not to care what they have to say. Sometimes of course it’s hard because this IS high school. Therefore, I never look upon them negatively because of what they love to do, because I know what they love is what they love, regardless of whether I love it or not. And it is just easier for all of us, if I, being a friend, support them. In order to help in this particular English class is if I listen to all my peers, which is something I already do, and then I choose what I believe is right, in my state of mind, because this is the state of the student!

The next habit is the habit of communication, which means how well one can retain an idea, and how well that person can distribute that idea to their audience. I remember I used to have a friend who could never explain to the teacher correctly of they were trying to say. They would always say, “Come on Kathy, help me here, you know I’m talking about.” It was usually true, partly because I keep my open mind, and partly because I listen. What is the use of talking to somebody if they don’t listen, and what is the use if you don’t listen? Listening is the receptive half of communication; the other half is about distributing the information. My mother is a professor of Mass Communications, so she knows all about mass media, how ideas are communicated to a large number of people, at times millions and billions, since as of last week there are 6 billion people in the world! At this point in my life, I only have to worry about presenting an idea to at the most thirty people. But if twenty of the thirty people don’t understand, I will feel as if it was all useless. Therefore, I need to be clear when speaking, but I also need to be respectful when listening. If I don’t listen, in the end, it will do me no good, whatsoever.

The sixth habit is the habit of commitment, which means the ability to stick to something, and knowing when to take action upon that something. Wishy-washy passive people let others influence them too easily, a person should be able to stick to their own ideas, and not let others tell them they are wrong. Instead of saying, “but…” one should say, “so, because of that, I’m going to do this now.” Commitment is not just believing in an idea, but also acting on it when the time is right. If someone is anti-abortion, and heaven forbid they were put into a situation to decide, the choice for them should be easy. To commit myself to my beliefs, I must not by hypocritical, but I must also not degrade others when committing themselves to what they believe. In this class, the easiest way of committing is to work as hard as I can, do all my homework, hand in all my homework, and study for my tests. This is how I will commit to getting a better grade, even though I’ve already committed myself, I can always push myself harder.

The next habit is the habit of humility, which is knowing where I stand in relation to others around me, knowing what I can do, and what I should do, and knowing what others could and should do. Being in a country such as the United States, I basically feel as if I can do whatever I wish to do. This does not mean there will not be consequences, and I know that if I’m going to do something, I need to be ready to face those consequences. If I were to break a law, or something in the form of civil disobedience, and I were asked if I was sorry that I did it, or that I was sorry I was caught, ninety-nine percent of the time, I will probably be that I was sorry I got caught. I usually will not do something that I believe is so wrong that it should not be done. Once I sneaked into a rated R movie, because I felt I could watch the film regardless of what they might show on screen. I knew what to expect because I had seen rated R movies before, and I knew I could handle what I was going to see, therefore I went to see it. I was confident enough to know I could handle it, even though I may have been caught.

The last habit is the habit of joy, which means how to be happy. I feel this is the easiest habit of all, because sometimes I feel as if I’m the happiest person on the face of this earth. All my friends complain about work, school, homework, teachers, and parents. I love my so-called job, school and homework does not phase me, though I do with some of the stress would go away, and I have no problems with most of my teachers because they are nice to me, so I will be nice back. We have mutual relationships; it’s actually quite simple. And parents, like I said before, my friends or one of them probably two do not like my parents, but I could not love them more. We never fight, and when we do, it is petty and usually resolved in less than three minutes. The atmosphere is always happy, therefore I am always a happy person. It is true they put a lot of pressure upon me to do well in school, but I’ve realized that I put even more pressure on myself. If I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be as happy, because every time I accomplish something, I feel satisfaction. One major thing in my life that makes me happy is my friends, not the ones I have mentioned before, but the ones that stick by me through everything. They support what I do, and are always open minded. They are the ones from which I always hear, “that’s awesome” instead of “that’s so stupid.” These are the friends that noticed my haircut after getting six inches off! For their love toward me, I will always repay them by loving them back. Like I’ve already said, the relationship is reciprocated and mutual. I love most things in life, and therefore I am easily amused. Just one telephone call can make my day, just one hi from someone can push me over the top, just one A+ on a test can make me proud, and just about anything can make me happy. Even just knowing what is going to happen in the future makes me happy that I am alive and will be able to see that future. This may sound strange but Monday meetings make me happy, too! Just wondering about what we might talk about today is enough to get me through the day and look forward to eighth period. If ever anything makes me unhappy, I know I must turn it around and make it positive. There’s no other way around it, otherwise the unhappiness just sticks with me.

This is the state of the student, specifically me. I am not everything that I have written down on this paper, but I hope to be more than what I am now. Before I can please anybody else, I must please myself first.