Procrastination is the longest four-letter word in the dictionary. We’re all guilty of it from time to time. We set out to clear the old inbox or clean the garage out and, lo and behold, that 1970’s television mini-series starring Lee Majors and Rip Torn that we haven’t seen in years comes on the tube. We’re lost for the day. One thing finds its way to another and, soon enough, we’re knee-deep in popcorn and comfy pillows instead of being knee-deep in clearing the garage of stuffed animals and toys we saved from the 1950’s. On the other hand, who knows, one can never be entirely certain that Hula-Hoops and Slinky’s won’t come in handy some day, can they?
The tendency to procrastinate is bred into us at an early age. We can’t be blamed for it. Like procrastination, Americans and Westerners in general have an excellent propensity to seek and assign blame. This also is bred into us at an early age. The dog ate my homework. Need I say more? So who can we blame for teaching us to both procrastinate, and, well, blame people for our flaws? The public school system, that’s who. You wouldn’t be saying the dog ate my homework anywhere else, would you? When all else fails, blame Government operated agencies.
So how does the public school system teach us to procrastinate? With loathsome practices such as homework, long-term projects (like the dreaded science project), and oh yes, the universally hated Final Exam. Why put off today what you can still put off tomorrow? Because you can, that’s why. At the very heart of it, this is what procrastination is, putting off priorities to do more urgent things like watching cartoons, playing games and listening to music. School not only allows for procrastination it encourages the practice of putting things off.
How so you ask? Because by design, teachers and courses put things off for days, often months, and then reward you for hurrying to get them done. They introduce us to principles like end of the term exams, ‘long-term projects’ and ‘quarterly grades’. All things that seem far off and distant. Harmless even, until, that is, the due date arrives, sped up as if delivered via a time machine that only devious educators hold the controls.
One day you’re watching Spongebob Squarepants with 7 or 8 weeks until your science project is due. Your final exams are getting close and the next thing you know, it’s midnight, and you’re tracing a human heart out of the dictionary and copying words like aorta that make no sense to you. You have to do it, so you can turn something in the next morning as a science project to avoid getting a zero (even though your planned project was to create a working volcano with exploding lava). So what does all of this flurry of activity get you? A C+ for a grade, that’s what, because at least you turned something in and showed some effort. Effort in the school system equals average. That’s why we have so many career shoe salesman and burger flippers in this world. And the Good Lord knows we need designer shoes and cholesterol in a wrapper, right?
Next thing you know after you ‘complete’ your makeshift project, you’re cramming because the exams you’ve ignored all year are upon you, and there’s no more putting studying off. Cramming means: “To force, press, or squeeze into an insufficient space; stuff,” or “To study hastily for an impending examination…” Only in America would we use a term that means squeezing knowledge into a brain with insufficient space when it comes to studying for an exam. So you’ve been rewarded with an average grade for simply trying, at the last second, to put something, anything together to keep yourself from being grounded because of your science project. So how does this cramming thing work out?
Well, while taking your science exam, you put down answers like aorta and pulmonary valve because they come back to you from places you don’t even recognize. Cramming flashbacks fill your mind with things like ‘Big Bang Theory’. Now, you’re pretty sure that’s a TV show or something, but isn’t it a relevant science term too? Before you know it, you get a C on your final exam, even though you ignored it for most of the term, until the last second. That, coupled with your C+ from your science project, and all of the A’s and B’s you received on your daily work that you were forced to pay attention to every day (which make up 80% of your grade) give you a B- on your report card. You’re not only spared a grounding from your parents, they buy you a toy or give you $5 for getting good grade.
This is how procrastination is bred into us at an early age. It’s also how we develop a dependency on caffeine and coffee. We need it to cram for our exams. Even grade conscious, study friendly students (often referred to as nerds, another American oddity, to belittle those who excel) cram at the latest possible moment, because we forget most of what is not pertinent to us on a daily basis. If the school system wanted to punish procrastination, they would give final exams once a week, so you could bury and forget all that useless knowledge you will never need in life, like Big Bang Theory and math. That’s what computers and documentaries are for any way, to do the math and remind us of irrelevant facts.
Most students hate exams. It’s also why most people in Western Civilization learn to procrastinate as a defense mechanism, and it’s why we, as a people, believe that a little effort means average and equality, which explains the popularity of reality shows these days. In view of we’re encouraged to put off everything we can until the last second, when the world around us explodes and forces us to focus making us do too much in too little an amount of time. In a nutshell, procrastination is the foundation that all civilized society is built upon. We accept mediocrity from others because we sure as hell know one day, sooner or later; we’re going to put something off until the last second. It’s the American Way. Now, if you don’t mind, there’s an awesome black and white movie coming on television that I haven’t seen in years. I need to go watch it! So here’s a prayer I wrote, for every student who has ever attended school, and any adult who has an important report due the first day back after a weekend or after a long Holiday vacation.
A Student’s Prayer
Every time I have to study,
I pray to the Lord I don’t go nutty,
A computer may help me learn this junk,
But will it help me so I don’t flunk?
There’s so much to do,
And so much to Cram
Yikes! There’s mom and dad glaring
I better pass that exam…
There’s no sympathy or pity for me at all…
No where to turn, but for the study hall…
So dear Lord, please help me pass tomorrow’s test,
So mom and dad will stop nagging and I can finally rest……