I remember exactly where I was when I read Marx’s “The Fetishism of Commodities” — bear with me, this won’t be about dead philosophers — my freshman year. I was in the lobby of CUNY Hunter’s West building, reading for my Intro to Political Thought final. I got an A-.
Three years and a school transfer later, I’m at office hours discussing an essay. My professor suggests I use Marx as a source for my paper. “Have you ever read ‘The Fetishism of Commodities?’” he asks. I shake my head, and he proceeds to explain it to me.
It wasn’t until an hour later that I remembered that I had not only read it, but had enjoyed it and written a paper on it. Why hadn’t I remembered it, or anything about it?! How does something just slip away like that, especially when I so clearly remember all the lyrics of “Suit & Tie,” which came out around that time?
Irony dictates that I wouldn’t realize the dangers of the sieve-like minds of students until my senior year. I’ve done decently in four years’ worth of classes towards my double major, and they’ve left conceptual impressions on me — gerrymandering is bad, Russian literature is sad — but I couldn’t tell you the details of Nash equilibria if you paid me. Maybe that’s the point of an undergraduate liberal arts education. But it still baffles me.
I get it. Years of learning The Art of Bullshitting in a flawed education system has taught us to retain information just long enough to spit it on paper; students can get through college without reading most “required” reading while still maintaining a good GPA and get a job and a happy-ever-after. And, of course, college isn’t just about grades. But what does it say about how we’re going to approach things later in life if I’m able to turn in and get an A on a midterm with more help from coffee than the book I was supposedly analyzing for three weeks?
This isn’t a criticism of BU or American universities in general, though that’s probably a part of it. We pay an absurd amount for an education, which is certified through a degree. And a lot of the time, it seems like we’re neglecting that middle step, going through the motions for that piece of paper while treating the classes we take to get there with the same level of ambivalent annoyance we’d treat a YouTube advertisement you can’t skip. And that’s our fault.
We’re mostly smart kids and the apathy we have towards education is seriously distressing. Maybe it’s because we don’t have a football team, maybe it’s because we’re going through an existential crisis, but we owe it to ourselves to get the most out of education — we’re here anyway, and how could that be a bad thing?
I’m definitely guilty — I’ve gone to Wine Wednesday at the Colonial instead of studying more times than I’ll admit, but it’s more than that. We go to a really good school that has a mostly incredible faculty and resources that exist solely to help us; that’s primarily what being on Pipe Dream for 3 years has taught me. But we don’t use them. Why not? What are we doing otherwise? Netflix and the bars will always be there. It can boil down to reading the book for that gen-ed you’re taking because you have to on your bus ride to school instead of scrolling through Instagram. You might get the same grade on the test if you just fork over $5 for the Bookrags version, but you never know — you might like it! You might learn something! And 10 years from now when someone mentions Das Kapital, you’ll know what they’re talking about. And that crippling debt will seem a little more worth it.
Because I’m a millennial and like to blame others for my flaws, there are a few people I’d like to thank for being perfect little distractions. My fellow Pipe Dreamers, you’ve made me laugh, cry, learn, want to tear my hair out and helped me realize I want to do this journalism thing after I leave this dusty office.
To the best news section a gal could ask for — Gabby, Pelle, Alex and Nick and Joe from years past (and Davina for somehow still being my friend and maybe boss), thank you for being with me throughout Student Congress writeups and hungover Sunday meetings and for telling me when I’m not making English-sense, which is most of the time. But it’s not goodbye, as we’ll be drinking PBRs at the pond party this summer. Brendan, stay great. Remember that everything is interesting if you look at it in the right way, even librarians. Alex, I don’t know where I’d be without you. A mental hospital, probably. Thank you for never tiring of me and facilitating both work and play and showing me how to properly celebrate the milestones that matter. I think that cake is still in my fridge.
To the meme squad, my past and present room/housemates and my friends beyond Binghamton city limits, thank you for tolerating my incessant neediness and bad jokes and refusal to dress up for going out. It’s been greatly appreciated. Tycho, you’ve made me grow incredibly as a person and yada yada but mostly I’m just happy we went from bridge trolls to “Frasier” connoisseurs together. To my family, thank you for always being supportive and kicking me in the metaphorical ass when I needed it. I still do sometimes.
This is an incredible little city filled with incredible people, and I’m going to miss it dearly. Don’t take it — or anyone you meet in it, or learn in it — for granted.
Carla Sinclair is a senior double-majoring in English and political science.