The Illusion of Academia

Rohan Jhunjhunwala

As clichéd as it sounds Malvern isn’t about the classroom. You can Google the derivative of sin(x), but using only a ruler and compass you can’t derive the lasting relationships built at Malvern

“If you discuss the multiple choice in any way, with anyone, your scores will be cancelled.”

Those were the closing words of my high-school academic career, and I’d like to examine them for a second to more broadly examine the difference between knowing facts and learning.

Those who know me probably think that this is turning into a college-board rant, and I’ll promise ahead of time that it won’t (in fact I won’t use the word “college”, or “board”). Essentially, I’m trying to analyze some of the misguided values we hold as a society (wholeheartedly including myself).

The parting words of wisdom I was given as I finished my AP Latin exam told me to do exactly nothing to reflect on my progress. I shouldn’t talk to anyone, and I should eagerly await my score: a number from 1 to 5 which somehow evaluates not only my year at Malvern, but the sum total of my experiences which make me a person.

As a proud graduate of AP Statistics, I’m 100% confident that this mindset makes no sense. The experiences at Malvern mean more than any set of numbers can convey.

Coming from someone who spent almost every spare minute obsessing about numbers: whether it was my GPA or a college’s (technically, I didn’t lie earlier, because here, I said “college’s”, but I’ll stop) admittance rate, I’d like to say that this is entirely unhealthy. Please do not follow in my footsteps.

Your Malvern experience cannot be distilled to a number, and by chasing perfect numbers, you only lose sight of what really matters.

At Malvern you hear this a lot, but I’ll repeat it because I can. I’d like to encourage you to take risks and explore fields far outside of your comfort zone. You can succeed, but it’s very likely you won’t be perfect right out of the gate. That’s OK!

Malvern is unique in that it provides an environment which encourage these pursuits. We’re a small, tight-knit community, and while everyone here would love to see you succeed, we’ll always be there to pick you back up if you don’t.

I’m more proud of my narrow one-point loss in wrestling than a number of my academic accolades, and my actual proudest accomplishment at Malvern came in the form of my one (and only) win. The student section made that moment truly special, and I might not have won without them.

At Malvern, you’re only given four years, but you can fill these years with enough memories to last a lifetime. However, in order to do this you might have to do things you never could see yourself doing.

As an introverted nerd, eight years ago if someone told me that I’d come to Malvern, a school with a heavy athletic focus, I’d probably have been confused. If they then told me that during my time there I’d participate in both wrestling and crew, take six language credits, and attend a black-out football game wearing a fluorescent orange jacket, I would laugh and walk away.

Today, I still sit here as a nerd. I’ll be entirely honest about it, but each of my experiences outside the classroom have served to slightly round out my personality in a way that I’ll always be grateful for.

In the stories that I’ve put together over the years for the newspaper, I’ve had to consider an intersection of two distinct fields: science, and human interaction, the latter generally remains a  mystery to me.

However, in doing this, I’ve had a chance to escape the frictionless vacuum we work in within the classroom. I’ve had to think about how what I write and develop can affect the community around me.

I have a reputation of a “STEM kid”, so I never thought I’d say this, but there’s only one lesson that needs to be taken from Malvern, and that is a lesson in humanity.

As a student who is not of a Catholic background, what a Catholic education has given me is a set of remarkably varied influences which has allowed me to consider how I can better interact with others and use these interactions not only to develop meaningful experiences for myself but also use these experiences help drive me to become a small part of a better tomorrow.

I’m known to ramble, so I’ll keep my point brief. Entertain me for a second, and put down the textbooks and calculators. Now, take a second to picture a moment in your Malvern career when you were truly proud.

Let’s be honest, if you really think about it, the moment you’re thinking about probably isn’t academic. It might not be a moment in a classroom or even on Malvern’s campus.

Ten, 15 or 20 years down the road, all you’ll have is a collection of moments. I’d like to urge you to maximize the value of these moments, by sharing them with fellow students, friends and ultimately brothers.

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