In my Spanish class the other day my professor explained the expectations for group projects this semester. (collective groan) He said something like, “You have to learn how to work in groups. Out in the real world you will have to work with people.” (emphasis mine)
Hmm, funny. (Chistoso, I just learned, is the Spanish word for funny.) I didn’t know that I was living in an alternate reality. At 23 am I still not a part of the “real world”? I’ve been working for the last 8 years – with other people, and I’ve been paying taxes for as long. I’ve also been voting for the last 5 years and have even invested in my own retirement account. I pay my bills on time every month and I juggle responsibilities like everyone else that I know.
I went to school for most of my young life, with the hoards of other kids my age. Is my professor under the impression that I still haven’t learned how to work with other people? If I didn’t learn in school how to work with others, and I didn’t learn from all the jobs I’ve had how to work with others, and I didn’t learn in all the many co-housing situations I’ve been in how to get along well in groups, then I don’t think an intermediate Spanish group project is going to help!
I actively resist the idea that 1) as a young person in college I am not a legitimate person yet and am still experiencing some sort of alternate reality and 2) that fabricated social situations like group projects in an intermediate Spanish class will somehow fix all social ills that might have befallen me before this.
Moreover, I actively reject the notion that any young person should be told that their experiences are not part of the “real world”. By separating the experiences of young people and the experiences of “the rest of the world”, even if only in language, we are doing a great disservice to the self actualization of our youth! We expect young people to be self motivated and capable, but we don’t allow them those experiences until after they’ve graduated.
And, soapbox aside, the universal truth is that group projects suck. No amount of excuses about adult preparedness and the importance of understanding group dynamics will fool anyone into thinking that required and often arbitrary group projects are fulfilling for anyone. Group discussions and dynamic learning communities? Yes, please! Group projects with PowerPoint slides? Not so much.