Column: The lessons learned outside of class

By Jenette Sturges

I love toaster ovens. Aside from my gmail account, I can think of no invention more clearly inspired by the heavens. This semester I learned to use both, and my quality of life has improved significantly.

Actually, I’ve learned a lot this semester. And while the foundations of 19th century American fundamentalism are incredibly interesting – thank you, Professor Ebel – sometimes the most important lessons are learned outside the confines of the hallowed halls of learning.

For instance, I learned that you can’t make everyone happy. When the Hatfields write a letter to the editor, the McCoys will want a rebuttal. And when the McCoys are published, I’ll be forced to listen to 20 minutes of screaming from the Hatfields over the phone.

I learned that jungle juice and straight shots of tequila are not a good mix, particularly if you’re not much of a drinker.

On a somewhat related note, I’ve learned that sometimes, when your words are published in a public forum, you’re going to be forced to eat them, no matter how careful you are not to contradict yourself. (See my old column “Don’t puke on my lawn.”) Consequently, I’ve also learned that contradicting yourself is not always a bad thing, and it’s much less dangerous than sticking to your incorrect opinions simply because you don’t want to flip flop.

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    I’ve learned that, while everyone enjoys a good laugh, not everybody can appreciate quality satire. Invariably, somebody will not get the joke.

    I discovered, through my diet of Qdoba and Chipotle, that gaining an extra five pounds is not the end of the world . really.

    I’ve learned that nothing is ever split in terms of black and white, conservative and liberal. If I – the girl who won’t wear shoes at the office – can be called a Republican, anyone can.

    But more than anything, I’ve learned about the myriad of issues facing this community. The lack of recycling comes to mind. So too, does the state budget crisis and the effect it will have on our University. And the ongoing debates of smoking in public places and what to do with Chief Illiniwek may never go away.

    And to my depressing astonishment, I learned that the most pressing issue still facing our community, and indeed our country and world, is the problem of race and racism. We’d like to pretend it’s not, and until this semester, I didn’t think it was. But far and near, race is the recurring theme that I’ve dealt with this semester. From people who think that the N-bomb is a word to be dropped casually, to folks who would like to see Muslims wiped from the Earth (and there are many in both cases), hatred is alive and rearing its ugly head all over this campus and country.

    So, as the semester winds down, and before students commence the great migration back to the suburbs, I’d like to present us all with a proposition: veg out this summer (“Lay like broccoli” to quote Julia Roberts), but don’t forget that you, too, can learn even when not prompted to by an exam or term paper. Observe the world around you this summer; ask questions and maybe even crack a book. I personally like to put an open book over my face when lying on the beach. It makes me feel smarter.

    And when you come back, be prepared to tackle the problems that plague us all. Pick a passion. Write a letter. Call the Daily Illini office continually until it gets published.

    I’ll be here, ready to referee the discussion.

    That is, as soon as my garlic bread is ready from the toaster oven. God, I love that thing.

    Jenette Sturges is a junior in LAS and the Opinions editor. She would like to thank her professors for all the things she did learn in class this year. She can be reached at [email protected].