I have been in and out of universities for a long time, and there are a few stereotypes that have not changed, specifically the outspoken (often mature-age) student in discussion groups. Now, these come in a number of flavours, and as always some are more palatable than others. I’m not trying to defend people who argue in lectures, but I want to defend the vocal ones in your tutorials, the ones who ask and answer all the questions, the ones who seem to have a gripe with everything. You might think they talk (and complain) too much, and they probably do, but as an opinionated complainer who also talks way too much, I want to address why I will keep on doing it.

 

It’s not like I’m interrupting

Let’s not mince words: I don’t talk too much, you just don’t talk enough — you just turn up, tune in, and drop out. I would rather have someone disagree with me than sit in another discussion group for 45 minutes while people stare at their phones. If I’m the only one talking, then rest assured I’m going to answer every question the tutor asks. Why? So I can actually learn what I’m meant to be learning. I’m not paying for the right to be in the classroom, I’m paying for a qualified expert to guide my learning. You’re paying the exact same amount of money to be there as me — you should have your questions discussed and answered as well. No one gets special consideration for diffidence.

Discussions aren’t just there to fill in the time, they’re a way for people to share their experiences. Speaking your mind lets people know where you’re coming from. Not to mention that asking questions in class becomes the fairest way of making sure that the entire room has the same access to information as you. If I ask my tutor questions outside of class times, they will give me an answer, but only me. By discussing answering questions in front of the whole class, we all get a better education.

You might complain about hearing my voice and opinion all the time, but if I wasn’t saying anything then it would just be the tutor talking to themselves. If you’re sick of only hearing one opinion in a tutorial, add yours to the mix.

 

We are sick of your bullshit

I understand that when you feel passionately about something, you want to believe that system can solve any problems that people might have. I don’t care whether it’s a religion or a development methodology — you want to think that if you put the right words in the right order, and you document it, everything will work out. But what I want to tell you when I disagree with you is just that: I think you’re wrong. I had to listen to a speaker at a university conference last year say that they truly believed their mindfulness behaviours had helped their returned veteran brother with his PTSD. It’s one thing to lie to yourself, don’t lie to a conference hall full of people as well.

Complaining presents an opportunity for you to think about how you feel about something. If you don’t give a shit and would rather watch Netflix, go with God. But to my mind, university is about learning to accommodate opposing viewpoints, and encouraging students to blindly agree with what’s shovelled into their brains is what you should really rail against.

 

You are playing house

Universities are full of idealism: you’re young, you’re changing your perspective about the world around you and you’re planning for your future. But university isn’t about feeling good, it’s about learning how to be an adult, and one of the most important lessons you will learn is how much time and effort are wasted trying to work in a group. Regardless of how many opinions are in the mix, there can only be one assignment, and one final decision. Implementation will often be left to people who didn’t deal with the original material. You will see your best intentions torn to shreds, and you’ll be held accountable.

 

It’s all fun and games until you realise that the people who are slacking in your groups will get the same degree as you, and you will have to work with them in an environment where failure might cost you your job. So while I might rant and complain (and I do, at length), I’m not going to action it, I’m just going to do my part and walk away, because if I’m going to fight for a cause I’m going to make sure it’s one I care about, not to complain that the vice-secretary of a club won’t email me back, or Jim didn’t include a reference list. I’m not at this university to change it, I’m here to change myself. Instead of trying to silence the speakers, maybe you should think about becoming a better listener.