Either you’ve heard of it, or you’ve experienced it, or both: The Stanford Duck Syndrome. To my surprise, there is no Wikipedia entry for it yet (get on it, people) so I will describe it as best I can. It’s where everyone on campus appears to be gliding effortlessly across this Lake College. But below the surface, our little duck feet are paddling furiously, working our feathered little tails off.
The appearance of ease and the subversion of effort seem to be at the Duck Syndrome’s core. I believe this syndrome stems from a variety of phenomena – that appearing to work hard isn’t cool because REAL geniuses come by it effortlessly (and if we show folks it’s dang hard work to be a student here then we’re not real geniuses and someone will kick us out – or worse – we’ll be humbled by our noticeable imperfection); that we live in beautiful sunny humid-free Northern California where we’re supposed to always be some combination of smiling, having fun, and appreciating our good fortune – because frustration, anxiety, self-doubt, effort, and failure don’t have a place in the Stanford experience; and that if we begin revealing how vulnerable and insecure and imperfect we are, our friends will turn out to be so self-absorbed they won’t actually care.
So for those of you who are expending effort even though you may not being showing it, this blog aims to guide and refine your efforts to learn. Whether it’s popular to admit it or not, success takes effort. Learning takes effort. There’s no manual on how to learn how to walk but pretty much babies become toddlers all over the world without formal instruction. Yes, that learning is intuitive. But when the tasks become more complex, the material becomes more difficult, the more learning is confined by time (as in a 10 week quarter), and the more volume of work there is to be managed simultaneously, effort and skill are stepped up. Fast pace, volume, and complexity of material. Look at those feet go!
And so, The Duck Stops Here. Every week or so, I will share some piece of the wisdom your fellow students have shared with me (and some I’ve discovered on my own). I will offer advice on how to learn and study best, read effectively, prepare for and take exams effectively, how to develop strategies for dealing with procrastination and managing the 10-week quarter, and so on. I will suggest techniques that aim to balance the pragmatic forces of a deadline/grade-driven education with the deeper and most meaningful efforts to become educated. By reading this blog, taking some advice, trying some things to help you succeed, I hope to help you make every paddle count. And possibly even reveal that you are paddling. If you care to share, I welcome your comments, your advice and wisdom, and especially your willingness to show off your duck feet.