Learn to work through boredom

Working through boredom — without a parent or teacher to nudge you along — is a critical college readiness skill, writes Mark Bauerlein on the Core Knowledge Blog. (I’d say it’s a life readiness skill.)

K – 12 teachers try to use “relevant” materials that will engage and motivate students, writes Bauerlein, an Emory professor.

. . . teachers may go too far in presenting an exciting, relevant curriculum, unintentionally giving students the message that their boredom is a justifiable condition that somebody else must remedy. Better for them to absorb a different lesson: boredom, in itself, is no reason to stop working.

Many college students don’t have a clear goal. They want “the college experience.” They want to please their parents. It’s the thing to do. If it’s not fun, there’s no reason to keep working.

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  1. Heh. When I get college students coming to me asking me if I think they’re “grad school material,” the first thing I ask them is “how is your tolerance for boredom?” As in, can you weigh 10,000 beetle carcasses without going nuts? Can you sit and ten-key in your data day after day? Can you seemingly endlessly rewrite proposals and theses?

    I think a bulldog-like tenacity is equal or nearly equal to smarts in grad school success.

    I also have to admit I hate the trend in higher education that suggests everything has to be “entertaining.” It isn’t. Things can be fulfilling or worthwhile without being entertaining, in fact, things can be worthwhile AFTER you are done being bored out of your mind doing them, and finally have the data analysis….

    • Educationally Incorrect says:

      When I was a HS physics student back in the late ’70s our lab experiments wouldn’t take too much time, but the subsequent calculation of best-fit lines by “hand” (the four-function calculators could only do much) took up a lot.

      There was value in that tedium.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Said it before: The first “experiment” we did in college-track chemistry in high school involved boiling water and keeping records, then graphing the results.
    We wanted to blow things up and make vile smells. First things first.

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    I blame Sesame Street. And I’m half serious when I say that.

  4. More than a sign of college readiness, it’s a sign of maturity. The fact that college “students” tune out during lecture and instead play with their smart phones indicates they really shouldn’t be wasting either their time or money in an academic environment.

  5. Not all boring lessons are profitable. I fear that lots of kids are subjected to fruitless boring lessons these days.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      I don’t think anybody said boring was the point. I think the point was that boring was something to learn to work through.
      From which it follows that pointless boring might actually be useful.

      • I’ve found that 4H is a really good way to teach my kids this lesson. Many of the projects are very difficult, so you have to keep working through the boring parts to get to the finished product.

        Woodworking has taught my daughter a lot about being attentive to boring things to get a good result.

  6. And if the “21st-century learning” (whatever *that*’s supposed to mean) makes them equally bored….?