I really didn’t want to write this article. It’s going to annoy people, it’s going to insult people, it’s going to mark me out as a massive killjoy. But you know what? Someone had to say it, and it might as well be the person with no friends to lose in the first place: Independent Learning Week, as it currently stands, is pointless. And if you’re a St Andrews student, it’s probably your fault.
Now, before I get into my explanations, let me cravenly cover my arse first. I am not criticising the University of St Andrews administration for bringing back reading week (pls don’t fail me guys, I like it here), nor am I knocking the efforts of those students who campaigned for it. Independent Learning Week is, in theory, a great idea, and I’m sure it’s useful for teaching staff and others who put it to good use. However, for students, it’s a waste of time. Because, no matter how good it is in concept, we had to go and ruin it like the schmucks we are.
The reason for this (and oh my god, I hate myself so much for typing this sentence) is that people, generally speaking, do not use Independent Learning Week to Learn Independently. They use it (or, at least, a pretty large proportion of them do) to go jetting off to exotic locations and Instagram about how #blessed they are to be there.
Now, again, I realise I’m sounding like the kind of person you try to avoid at parties, but hear me out. I’m not just saying this because I’m bitter over the fact I spent the last week drinking cold tomato soup out of a tin in student accommodation while you were away sunning yourselves. I’m saying it because there’s a certain amount of teaching that has to be done per semester. Independent Learning Week cuts into this teaching time, meaning it has to be made up afterwards. So, well done guys. We all have to break our necks even more over the next couple of weeks because you wanted to spend a week in Budapest. (Budapest is a holiday location, right? I don’t get out much.)
Now, anyone saying that taking reading week as a holiday makes them more effective students at this point gets a slap. I understand how saying “I need this to reinvigorate myself for going back to uni” might make you feel better about yourself as you embark on your fifth consecutive day of accomplishing absolutely nothing, but let’s be real here. Attendance at the lectures I’ve been at today has been just as low as it was pre-Independent Learning Week. The listless grumbling that I can hear in the library as I’m writing this is as omnipresent as ever. This is not evidence of a re-charged student body eager to take on whatever the rest of the semester has to throw at them.
Now, I get that wasting time is a proud and time-honoured student pastime (hence why I’m writing this article instead of studying), but lets look at the big picture here. There’s no inherent right to a reading week. The Uni giveth and the Uni taketh away. And if, as happened last week, we treat Independent Learning Week as a holiday, it’s going to be doing a lot more of the latter. We’d probably do well to keep that in mind.