By Scott Keith –
It is only four days until finals begin here on campus and all the students seem to be running around frantically attempting to tie up loose ends. Some are writing papers that have been assigned for 16 weeks. Some are putting the finishing touches on group projects that have, again, been assigned for 16 weeks. Others are reviewing materials which have been covered all semester, which they often seem to encounter with the same surprise that a newborn does when playing a game of peek-a-boo. They have seen it before, but every time it is shocking and new! While some seem to have it all together, many, if not most, appear to be just running around freaking out not quite knowing where to start. The entire scene reminds me of a phrase that my friend and life-long mentor, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, would say frequently: “In the world of the Platonic Forms, the Form of Studentness resides directly next to the Form of procrastination.”
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Plato (424-348 BC) was a student of Socrates, a philosopher, and the founder of the Academy in Athens. He is famous for many things including being the teacher of Aristotle. But Plato is arguably most famous for his concept of the world of the Forms, sometimes referred to as Platonic realism. In Plato’s view of things, behind every concept, such as beauty or goodness, or every object, such as trees, buildings, or even people, in the visible world there is an unseen reality, a more real reality, or what can be known as a Form. Thus, there is a Form of Beauty and Goodness, as well as a Form of a Tree, Building, and even People. Forms are often conceived of as the ideal blueprints for the visible earthly examples of things we encounter every day like beauty, trees, and people, which Plato calls Particulars. These Particulars only seem to exist and are at the end of the day merely pale reflections of the infinitely and more-real Forms. Forms exist independently in what Plato coined as the world of the Forms. It is important to note that the Forms exist separately from their Particulars. The Form of Beauty, therefore, exists separately from our ideas about beauty and even from beautiful people, places, and things. Plato conceived that in our world, we only have the ability to recognize Particulars because of the resemblances they hold to their specific Forms. So what Dr. Rosenbladt has been slyly saying for probably forty some odd years, is that the most real form of student most clearly resembles procrastination. Needless to say, I didn’t know how right he was until coming to serve on a college campus.
But, so what? It seems that nothing ever changes. Students have been procrastinating since there have been students. Is there anything different now? I’m not sure that there is an easy answer to that question. What I am sure of, is that I would say that the in the world of the Platonic Forms, the form of Studentness resides directly next to the form of severe anxiety; and this reality scares me. Procrastination will always be the case for students it seems, but have we taught them to handle the consequences of that procrastination? I fear not. I fear the desperation, hopelessness, and panic that seems to ensue when the going gets tough. This ties into previous blogs which discussed failure, mental illness, and the need to have some grit.
It seems to me to be as important to prepare children to deal with crunch time, as it is to teach them algebra. Whether or not they know algebra coming in, it seems clear they will procrastinate studying for the final.
The question in my mind is will they be prepared to deal with the consequences of that procrastination, or will they fold, give up, break down, or worse? I have no answers today, only questions. In the meantime, I ask you to pray for college and university students over these next several weeks as they head into what will be for many of them the most stressful time that have ever encountered in their young lives. They need your prayers and support. Peace be with you.