The idea of what qualifies as valuable, especially in something like public, state-funded education, is always in the eye of the beholder.
Some, like our “friends” in the state legislature and the Board of Governors, see value in tangible things: jobs, marketable skills, powerful resumés, money, money, money, money.
Some, notably my father who once told me to treat college like Shaq treated his NBA career (you could work your ass off and never have any fun and go down as the best student ever, or you could do great things but enjoy the ride. I’ve definitely enjoyed the ride.), regard intangible things like experience, new thinking styles and different perspectives as valuable.
I thought about value a lot when John Robinson tasked our JOMC 240 class with writing about what we got from his class, what the most important we learned was, how we have really changed this semester.
The class was set up in non-traditional setting with the students leading the course just as much as the professor. The class did not have a true syllabus, would occasionally veer off into tangents and always left us with more questions than answers.
And that was ok.
The most valuable thing that I am taking from the 30-person course is that sometimes just talking — not testing or memorizing or lecturing, but legitimate and thoughtful discussion — is the most effective way to learn and, much more important given my chosen field of study and hopefully work, create.
I’m not leaving Robinson’s course with a tangible, marketable skill liking coding or Chinese fluency that would make BOG members smile and nod as they know the state’s investment in me would one day pay off for them when I start paying into the tax system.
I’m leaving his class with something I find much more valuable. The ability to collaborate and create is so important in the changing world of media. The ideas that bounced around in class, the presentations that made us think about change in our field, the instructor who wouldn’t let us not push each other (I’m keeping this double negative just in case anyone from the Copy desk reads this accidentally) — these were all intangible things that helped me grow, not only as a journalist, but as a person too.
Our class was not perfect; we had days where the discussion was off-topic or the lack of structure was overwhelming apparent.
In the middle of the semester, the class was asked to fill out an evaluation form on what we had enjoyed and what we were confused with. To be completely honest, I think the form was the best thing that happened and not because the changes students suggested made some drastic, all-powerful shift in the course.
The form was so helpful, because I think we, the students, realized that when we scribbled down things like how we wished it was more structured we stopped and paused.
We are in college. We are at one of the best schools in the world. If we want change, we need to go out and do it ourselves.
So I’m cheating a little, because I did already mention what I found most valuable in this class. But I am taking this sentiment, that we need to be the ones who initiate change, as the thing that will stick with me longest.
This is what I am taking most from this class: Change is made by leaders, not followers — by those who overextend themselves and take risks, not those who ask their professor for more structure.
Grabbing life and running with it is something most college professors will tell you; you will hear about how you are in the prime of your life with the world at your feet, and despite all of those pesky, pressing concerns (getting job in an ever-changing market is probably up there as one of the biggest stressors I’m just going to go ahead and say), you are going to achieve whatever and blah blah blah.
But in this class it was different because we could see how we were actually going to grab life and run with it. Coming up with ideas for the future of news and its consumption, one could see the wheels turning in people’s heads as ideas from class became more than ideas —they started to become plans.
The world of media is changing and it is riddled with issues, much like the name of the course suggests, but that doesn’t mean we should be scared of it. We are going to be the generation in charge very soon and, as leading individuals in the fourth branch of democracy, it is imperative that we lead this field into a new, ethical, unbiased, thought-provoking, openly-available-while-still-monetizing-it age.
And in this class, we didn’t figure out the solution to problems being faced by the media industry today. Actually, I’m pretty sure many of us are leaving with even more questions than what we came in with.
But now, we know that we can and will change this field — and that we will 30 people to chat about it if we ever get stuck, or something much, much worse. You know, like actually thinking we had solved all of the problems in the media world and putting ole J-Rob out of a job.