Is Being Academically “Ahead of the Pack” Worth It?

Now in my second semester at Community College of Philadelphia, I am now taking Calculus I and an Introductory Chemistry course that solidly prepares a student for “college” chemistry.  It also prepares me for my intended majors Biology I course required as part of the biology program at CCP.

In both courses, there is certain material that I may already know, and know quite well.

Chemistry

Right now in chemistry, the professor has so far discussed some VERY basic math skills, probably none of which goes beyond the middle school level.  This includes: place values, solving pathetically simple algebraic equations (e.g., 2x + 3 = 13, something I can do in my head), the metric system, rounding (I already know 0-4 is rounding down and 5-9 is rounding up), scientific notation, operations with integers, yada, yada, yada!  It’s already like 3 weeks into the semester and it still feels more like math than chemistry!  He mentions there may be measurement units that we’ve never heard of, but the only one I know (the mole and all its kin), probably have been covered in HS chemistry classes wherein most, if not all, students have probably attended.  (I was among those that did not do so).  And last but not least, the instructor’s monotone lecturing style doesn’t help either.

At my original community college, Bucks County (Pennsylvania, USA), I have attempted majors chemistry twice unsuccessfully, and completed a non-majors chemistry course successfully (even in that situation, I was “ahead of the pack”).

Of course, to maintain the Christian value of humility, I keep silent about existing knowledge of mine, keeping compassion for the students and not being arrogant.  (cf. 1 Cor 8:1,2)

But looking on the bright side, at least I learned a good concise way of doing the scientific method, and some more appealing details amidst all the tedium.  You sometimes just have to look for the “silver lining” sometimes.

Calculus

Calculus I was another Bucks course I have taken but did not complete, and I learned a lot of neat stuff then (though since I have forgotten much, this serves a good review).  At least this course is challenging, both then and now.  But especially now, due to the professor’s methodology.  One imperative rule of schooling (this applies to chemistry, calculus, or any subject) is that you should not use your existing knowledge to do work in that class until that concept is taught therein.

“Too Much, Too Soon”*

My fetish with college materials, especially textbooks, began back in high school.  In mid-to-late August 2006, shortly before school started, I obtained a botany book via Amazon, the same text (but a newer edition) a HS teacher used in his college years.  The reading of this text spanned the rest of 2006 and into 2007.  Most typical high school kids have substantial homework, but being in a situation where homework assignments were few and far between (I shall not discuss why, though).  Since then, this interest (or if you will, addiction) has become over-the-top, and has lead (and will keep on leading) to the same tedious and boring situations in classrooms throughout college.  You would think it would make college (when you reach that point) easy.  In a way it does, but it also makes lectures boring and “old news.”  This past fall’s Psychology class was fascinating, but of course, I knew little of the material prior to then.

Conclusion

Eccl. 3:1-8 (incidentally, the apparent source for the Byrds’ 1965 folk-rock song “Turn, Turn, Turn”), is an OT Scripture beautifully puts diametrically opposed situations in a poetic nutshell that is quite versatile even beyond the exact words.

I have also discovered that textbooks used alone are often less fruitful that when with an instructor.  Sure, you’ll learn new things, but are they they accurate?  And there might be subtle gems of information either not in the text at all or “in between the lines”

Moral of the story?  For now, I should focus on the actual curriculum and hold off on other, non-assigned academic subjects until your formal studies are past, and just take our schooling one step at a time.

*This section’s title was part of an actual blog post title in a now-defunct blog of mine.

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