Friday, July 6, 2012
Different Shades of Grades
Today I am truly humbled. As I briefly mentioned, I am taking a FREE online course with a sociology professor from Princeton via coursera.org. Currently residing abroad sparked a multitude of questions about people from different societies and the human race in general. I wanted to know why we behave the way we do in accordance to the societal conditions placed upon us since birth insofar as to say I want to know what makes people tick, what makes them different and how they respond to life's trials because of their circumstances.
Ive thoroughly enjoyed the class and it's been good to have all these esoteric ideas thrown at me to ponder in my free time. I was yearning for knowledge after being out of the classroom for so long, but wanted to apply the ideas I'd receive to the things I encounter on a daily basis here. A few days ago, I realized it was "exam day." Exam? That word tastes bitter rolling around on my tongue. I haven't had to take a test in about a year and it's been great, but now I'm confronted with a beast of a midterm and of course I didn't study. I mean, I don't HAVE to partake in the midterm as I'm taking this class on my own accord. But my inner nerd screamed SUCK IT UP. The same snarky wench that forced me to do extra credit and make 1000 flash cards for each and every test in college and nearly experienced an aneurism with our first C (ironically in WOMEN'S STUDIES). So I took the test dagummit, and today I'm more than elated with my decision.
Part of the course involves peer evaluation and I had the opportunity to evaluate a fellow student's work. I began reading nameless student's paper and my eye started twitching as I encountered not only the reading comprehension of a fifth grader, but endless spelling and grammatical errors and diction misuse. The inner grammar policewoman inside squirmed in discomfort as I forced myself to grade objectively.
I reach the essay portion of the exam and my heart stops. The student in question is no Princeton snob, not even a Western-educated idiot, rather the student in question is a lower class member of society in a country I've recently become familiar with-- Cambodia, my next-door neighbor here in Thailand. The student interweaves concepts from the class cohesively with his or her own life's circumstances and I'm suddenly impressed by the error ridden grammar and spelling because I realize how difficult it must have been for this person to not only find the time to take this class, but to even understand the language in which lectures and readings are given.
Spending some time in Cambodia among the Khmer people, I know that most of the country is fairly poor and uneducated, yet unaffected by circumstance and eager to learn. This person warmed my heart and awakened my soul in a way in which I'm truly grateful. How wonderful it is that Princeton and other colleges are giving people across the world the opportunity to further their knowledge not only with useless notions inapplicable to their lives, but with relevant ideas that can change the way they think forever.
This student didn't get an A on his or her midterm, he or she will be lucky for a passing grade; however the courage this person displayed in even partaking in a midterm exam composed for students of an IVY LEAGUE school is truly humbling.
I don't think it's any accident that this is the paper I received to evaluate and once again I thank the universe for a gift that lifts me from my own self-absorption and places me in the shoes of another inspiring human being. This world is a very big place and sometimes we don't realize this because were consumed by the need to make an imprint. It isn't until we see the tiny footprints made by another that we see how important it is sometimes to walk beside someone rather than ahead of them.