Month: November 2017

Why my favorite time of the semester is final exams

SchoolSociety

During dead week last spring semester, I found myself bored and unsure of what to do. My boredom felt wrong and dangerous. I had felt the same thing in the preceding (fall) semester, but I didn’t want to lose my A’s this time because I messed up my final exams. So, since I had nothing to do, I strutted down to my academic counselor’s office and asked her, “I’m bored and I don’t know what to do. I know I should be studying, but I don’t feel like I need to study anything. What’s wrong with me?” She replied, “Nothing’s wrong with you, Jeffrey! This boredom is typical for people who have done well throughout the semester. Trust me, you will be fine.” After hearing that, I felt relieved and validated. I continued doing what I wanted, studying only a little bit. To be honest, I was still apprehensive of what she told me, but I now trust her judgement after I received all A’s that semester.

After a few weeks of the fall semester beginning, I couldn’t wait for final exams. I had weeks lined up with four tests and sometimes two tests occurred on the same day. While finals week lines up many tests on the same week, they don’t occur around the same time as other homework assignments being due, and usually don’t interfere with college applications. Furthermore, cumulative tests just means reviewing previously learned content. If I did well in my midterm exams, most of the finals should just be over the same thing that I had already learned. And if they aren’t cumulative tests, that’s fine too; final exam week is just testing, so other downtime can be used for studying instead of going to class. I find that finals week gives me the biggest chunk of downtime I can expect from any time of the semester, perhaps other than the first week.

Mathematically speaking, final exams are the final figure in calculating our grade. Depending on previous performance in the class and the weight of the final exam on your final grade in the class, one can achieve failing grades on their finals and still earn an A. This means there is lots of leeway for error if such errors are made and that means studying for finals is less stressful than regular midterm tests because there isn’t as much pressure to do well. It lets me show what I really know, without having to “cram” any knowledge into my head.

This post isn’t meant to be a panacea for those stressing over final exams. If you believe you know the content well, then you can chill a bit and naturally do pretty well on your finals, but if you have not done well on your previous tests, this is the home stretch for you to redeem yourself and try your best to get an A, if possible.

But if you had a successful semester so far, final exams are a pretty nice way to wind down. Best of luck to everyone this finals season!

Edit: I just took my first final exam of this semester: US History. It was purely a free-response exam and I had double the time I am usually afforded for this exam. So, I sat down and thought about what I would say. I excited my brain cells just thinking about how everything went together. I wasn’t under pressure to perform well. I just let out what I had to say on paper and I’m confident that I will do well. I’ve been learning this material all this semester and it’s not going to be hard to get an A.

Reputation and rhetoric

Society

I have finally found that these posts I’ve filed under “society” are not my ramblings, but my essays, in that I am essaying as Montaigne did. As such, enjoy my latest essay, which I have written because I can no longer hold my frustration within me.

As brilliant of a rhetorician one can become, their words are worthless if nobody will listen to them. Ideally, the better one’s rhetoric is, the more people will listen to them. However, this does not entirely hold true in the real world. For someone who has a sound balance of reason, ethics, and emotion, rhetoric is not really the key; it is reputation to which people listen. Our reputation is what gets us into the door and our rhetoric drives us home. The speaker’s rhetoric therefore serves limited purpose unless the speaker’s reputation is good.

I can point to real world examples, which unfortunately become easier to find as we move on from the 2016 United States presidential election. We have been described as being in a post-truth society, and I think this means that reputation matters more than rhetoric in this society. Donald Trump did not win this election with his rhetoric; his rhetoric is pitiful and laughable. Yet, he won the election, and that must be attributed to his reputation. His mudslinging and slogans got him the votes, bolstered by who he was.

I’m not like most people my age, and so I feel great difficulty in being able to connect with many people of my age. In fact, I believe most people see me as an aloof and unsociable weirdo because I think differently than they do. I can’t connect with most people because of their undesirable human tendencies, which I will discuss later. This results in me becoming an outcast—against my will, of course—and what am I to do? I am a stubborn person. I cannot sacrifice the small victories in life because doing so would go against the tenets of classical rhetoric: logos, ethos, pathos. In keeping my ground, I alienate myself from many people. Furthermore, when I next wish to communicate with them, I am met with a wall of resistance regardless of my rhetoric or attitude. From this, we can see that first impressions truly do matter.

However, this isn’t entirely up to me. As humans, we innately like to gossip and form cliques. We like to exclude. We like to treat other people like crap to make ourselves feel better. For the weak minded, those who do not realize how bad this is, they enjoy doing this and innocently ignore rhetoric, instead focusing too much on reputation. That is why they will listen to the person and not the reason. As reasonable as Hillary Clinton’s platform was compared to Trump’s, American voters were skeptical of hers because of her reputation. Ad hominem fallacy, perhaps? She could not be trusted because of Benghazi and her email servers. She was also felt to be a snake. Therefore, we decided to go with Trump, a man with little to say but at least he isn’t a snake like Hillary.

This truly tears me up. On one hand, I don’t want a snake ruling us and screwing us over when we least expect it. On another hand, I don’t want someone with little reasonability to rule us. So it really comes to what we trust more: rhetoric or reputation? This time, America chose reputation. But I would have chosen rhetoric. Why? I look for the good in people, and so I want their reasonable side leading us. We all make mistakes at times, whether guided by our fallacious selfish desires or our temporary lack of judgement. Such leeway to these mistakes should not just be given to the hoi polloi, but also be afforded for presidents, but we should not choose someone who is prone to folly all the time.

A more salient example of this struggle would be social media. Why won’t people like or retweet my posts but will retweet other people’s posts when we both say the exact same thing? It certainly doesn’t come down to the content, but rather the person writing the post. This infuriates me, because as Epictetus says, some things are up to us while other things are not. The things that are up to us? Our opinions, impulses, aversions. What is not up to us? Reputation, body, etc. He says we should not worry about what isn’t up to us. Well, we truly do care about who says something. As a result, I effectively become a crazy person talking to his own echo chamber. Many times I have disguised my identity and my words fare much better than when they are paired with my name. It is most unfortunate how human psychology improperly discriminates based on such unreasonable standards.

Something else wrong with what Epictetus says? Well, I am skeptical about his dogmatic conclusion. Chiefly, I cannot settle to ignore what isn’t up to us. My restless mind yearns to find a resolution to fix my reputation. The easy way is to start with a clean slate, but at what cost? I will simply have it spoiled again by my idiocy while appealing to the nonrational side of people.

As a last resort, I cease thinking about this (epoché). I plead for people to give me a second chance. It probably won’t happen. This is perhaps all made in vain, but I must try because otherwise I am emotionally disturbed, and this is the best I can do. Please, don’t put my reputation over my rhetoric. Similarly, don’t put other people over me because of their reputation. I know it’s hard, but at the end of the day, it’s not reasonable. You cannot call yourself a good person unless you cease being swayed by reputations. See through reputations and focus on impartial rhetoric.