When a Student Says “This is Pointless”

A professor and I were dialoguing about students who say my least favorite expression:

This is pointless. 

I put this comment in the same category as criticism and complaint. It’s easy. It’s our default state to ignore beauty, goodness, and complexity.

Anyone can say, “This is pointless.” It’s all pointless until we choose to dig into the matrix of a thing and uncover mystery and wonder and intricacy.

I say: Take the most pointless thing, the most boring thing, the most inconsequential thing, and find meaning there. Take it in your hands and exclaim, “Wow! Did you notice this? I have an amazing point to make about this thing.”

That’s what I’m really doing as an instructor and blogger; I’m training myself and others to make a point. There’s something to notice here. There’s something so deep here that when you press into it, you might just find the Glorious.

Maybe this is my simple defense of the humanities and the English major.

It’s not pointless. Nothing is.

What would you say to a student who looks at your assignment and says, “This is pointless”?

Share the Post:

0 Responses

  1. I would love to think that I would say something like what you have written here, but reacting to the sheer insolence of this remark ,I would probably say something much less profound like, “That's why I'm the teacher and you're the student.” And then he would hate me even more than he appears to already. That's why for me, writing is a much better form of communication than speaking – I'm just not that quick on my feet!

    OK, a real point: I find that when people say such insolent things, they reflect so much more about the speaker than the subject.

  2. With multiple regulations piling up seemingly everyday, many nurses think this, too. Sometimes, we hardly have time to breathe during a shift, much less consider the point or rationale behind a rule or demand. When we really look at the rationale, we understand the points and meaning behind each new demand. What we would like to see is “pointless” rules coming from those currently in practice; rules from those in the trenches carry much more weight. However, it just takes one – “I'm glad you were my nurse tonight” – to make the glorious obvious.