Daily Archives: December 21, 2007

The Webcomic Overlook #23: Nothing Better

I recently read “My Freshman Year” by Rebekah Nathan. Ms. Nathan (which is a pseudonym) is an anthropology professor who undertook a rather unusual task: she enrolled as an over-aged freshman student at a college to observe, professionally, a most intriguing cultural subset: the American college student. She took the study seriously, and she used her anthropological training to good use.

As an observer, she discovered many things that should be apparent to the typical college student, but surprising to her as a professor. As an educator, she thought that assigned reading would lead students to different viewpoints. As a “freshman,” though, she soon discovered that when you juggle four classes, extracurricular activities, and a part-time job, there is just no time to ever open a book. As an educator, she thought that classroom silence came from the typical fear of asking questions. Instead, she discovered that an invisible force — the pressures of “equality” — that prevented intellectual discussions. Students who ask questions (e.g., prize students) are seen as being arrogant — yet if everyone remains silent (except to ask questions about tests and exams), then everyone’s on the same playing field, intellectually.

From a student’s standpoint, there were several eye-opening revelations for me, too. I once used to brag that I could get through college, with only four hours of sleep a night. Ms. Nathan heard the same boasts, too. She noticed, though, that college students tended to schedule classes at later times (around 11 am) just to get some extra sleep. And all that jazz about individuality? You ever notice how dorm room door art practically tries to say “I’m an eccentric and fun nonconformist,” and yet all those decorations are the same — friendship and love on women’s doors, violence and humorous cartoons on men’s doors?

The findings might be anomalous. However, I’ve been a student at two colleges, and I know one thing: her observations of college life feels right.

Which brings me to today’s Webcomic Overlook review, Tyler Page’s slice-of-life comic Nothing Better. I’ve heard some criticisms that it makes college seem too antisceptic, too squeaky clean. Yet, while reading the comic, its observations about college life … they feel right.

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