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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    College group projects show how people suck

    It’s almost halfway through the spring semester and the only relief from stressful days of midterms are spring break plans. It’s also the time when professors like to begin assigning that timeless and always hated part of college life: group projects. College students everywhere despise the process, and for good reason. Group projects tend to be a long, quiet spell of procrastination before a mad rush to the finish by one or a few determined souls. Meanwhile, the rest of the group relegates itself to doing absolutely nothing until presentation day. What possible service can this painful exercise provide to a student’s learning?

    Professors will likely tell you that group projects teach us all a valuable lesson about teamwork. But it’s always a few doing the most while others slack. University officials, however, in the immortal words of Fleetwood Mac, tell us sweet little lies. It’s the implicit arrangement of higher education. But there is technically a grain of truth in what they say. We do learn about working together with our fellow humans from group projects. What we learn, however, is the soul crushingly dark side of that endeavor.

    To begin with, group projects tend to reinforce the idea that nobody will ever take the initiative until they are directly threatened. The group project that is begun early, with an organized and leisurely budget for time, is a rare occurance indeed, possibly nonexistent in reality. That’s a harsh but necessary lesson. When students get out in the working world and are assigned a task with a team, the lesson of the group project will likely hold firm and procrastination will commence.

    Next, group projects teach students that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, and bodies at rest tend to sit there like lumps for the duration. Often one, but rarely a blessed two or three members of the group, will take the entire initiative when the deadline starts to approach. The rest will be happily dragged along like children in a wagon until they’re in front of the class, presenting the part scripted carefully for them by someone else. It’s another awful lesson for humanity at large, that your fellow man is by and large lazy.

    This will definitely be encountered in the work place. In the U.S. government, ostensibly the highest and most prestigious work one could find, a few initiative takers pull a great mass of reluctant officials like so many stubborn mules. Even in the sacred realm of family or friendships, one is likely to find a single dynamo powering the whole lazy machinery. The truth hurts.

    In the end, students will always recognize group projects for what they are: episodes of grinding misery. No amount of sugar-coating can ever suggest otherwise — sorry professor. However, they are a necessary evil in developing a functioning citizen. Like the heartbreaking news that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, group projects are an effective, and perhaps ultimately gentler, way of snuffing out the college student’s misplaced hope in their fellow human beings. So the next time you’re assigned a group project, try to stifle your groaning. Your professor isn’t evil, he or she is merely teaching you the harsh lessons of reality: people suck.

    — Andrew J. Conlogue is a junior studying philosophy, politics, economics and law. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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