Midterms are just around the corner for some UMass Boston students, and I decided to step out last Friday and hear straight from student’s mouths how they feel about their approaching tests. Here a few snippets from the interviews I conducted:
Q (first person): “I noticed you’re coming out of a biology class. Are you taking a biology midterm, and if so, do you feel prepared?”
A (first person): “Well, actually, yes, I feel super prepared. The teacher is great and besides the fact that he hates me, I think I’m learning so much!”
Q (second person): “I noticed you’re coming out of a calculus class. Are you taking a midterm in this class, and if so, do you feel prepared?”
A (second person): “Life is meaningless.”
Q (third person): “I noticed you’re coming out of a physics class. Are you taking a midterm in this class, and if so, how do you feel about it? Do you feel prepared?”
A (third person):“Yes, I have a midterm. But my midterm is one meaningless slip of paper in a world devoid of meaning. Excuse me, I have to go sit on the beach and contemplate existence.”
Shocked by my interviews with undergraduates, I decided to further my research. An online poll, posted online on Saturday, Feb. 22, and with results collected the following Tuesday, asked UMass Boston undergraduates the following question: “Do you feel prepared for upcoming midterms?” The results were surprising: 14 percent answered “yes”, 14 percent answered with a simple “no”, 27 percent wrote in “Nothing really matters”, and an astonishing 45 percent drew in the answer box surprisingly realistic versions of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”.
I have concluded that there is a new wave of existential nihilism taking the undergraduate class, pre-midterms. The reasons for this new change in philosophical thinking is unknown in origins, but speculations claim that in order to avoid studying for midterms, students have decided to adopt nihilism to reduce the importance of the tests in their minds. By claiming that nothing is meaningless, students are able to say that their midterm grades are meaningless, and thus any time they spend studying for their tests would be utterly pointless. But some may have taken it too far.
One upper level English teacher reported: “Seven of my students wrote “nothing is real” in response to a long answer analysis question about The Great Gatsby. Well joke’s on them, I’ll tell you what is real: the terrible midterm grades they’ll be receiving!”
Teachers’ response to the new wave of existential nihilism on campus has been mixed. One philosophy professor, when asked about their feelings about the philosophical changes on campus, said they were “proud of students’ grasp of a philosophical theory, but concerned.” Another professor (anonymous) expressed their frustration: “My students may be embracing nihilism to ignore their midterms, but I’m more interested in absurdism—as in, it’s absurd that they aren’t doing their homework because it’s thirty percent of their grade.”
In conclusion, one can only hope that this philosophical fad blows over in time for the student’s grades to be saved. Currently, there is only hope for the philosophy majors, whose department heads “have considered giving extra credit for student’s immersion in a philosophical theory”. Others firmly believe as soon as midterms are over, students will be back to normal.