Friday, April 13, 2007

Slacker Nation: Part 2; or Origins

How does one become a slacker? Are slackers born or made? These might not be questions great thinkers ponder (I wonder if Aristotle was a slacker), but they are interesting nonetheless.

While I haven't done a comprehensive study on this, I know how I became a slacker. It happened in third grade. My teacher, Mrs. Butler, was teaching us double-digit subtraction; take the one ten and make ten ones, etc. I was always great at math, so this stuff was a breeze (31 minus 17? EASY! Give me something hard to do). She gave us a math test, and it had one section with five questions that looked something like this:

1) 43 minus 24


I wasn't sure what that line meant, so I did the math in my head and put my answer on the line. Easy stuff. Well, she marked all of my answers incorrect. Apparently, I didn't read the instructions, which said to show your work. With those incorrect answers, my score was low enough to warrant being put in the remedial group. I was pissed (well, as pissed as a third grader can get). I wanted nothing more than to be with those kids I knew I was smarter than, working on those "enrichment" worksheets with the tough problems (345 minus 167! Also, multiplication!). And yet, I was stuck with the remedial group, having stuff I already knew explained to me.

So I tuned out. Not consciously, of course. As an eight-year old, I still wanted to appease my parents in everything. I continued to pull down good grades (not that elementary school is tough) and be a good kid. But I never really had to try hard again (until sophomore year of high shcool), and because I "knew" that trying hard wouldn't really get me anything, I didn't. I spent class time doodling (8th grade social studies), talking (honors English), sleeping (AP Chemistry), or not present (honors American History).

Yet I graduated with a 3.85 GPA. All I was subconsciously learning was to work the bare minimum to get by. (Fortunately, college was able to coax a lot out of me. Learning that I wasn't the smartest man alive helped me focus on work I didn't like.) Are all slackers created by nuture? Or does nature take a part? I don't know.

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of Slacker Nation.

For Part 1 of Slacker Nation, click here.
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