It still always surprises me when a student blithely declares anything unfamiliar or which requires sustained concentration to be “boring,” and then dismisses it, as though their snap judgment is all the criteria necessary for rejecting something as unworthy of their effort.
What is it about us that we’re so accustomed to labelling something “boring” so quickly, and then so definitively putting it behind us and never looking back? Why don’t we consider this trend, which developed fairly recently in our society’s history but which now has roots as deep as any cherished value, with any more scrutiny?
Think about this: when we call something boring, what are we really saying? What we usually mean is not that it is too inherently dull, but that it is too difficult to comprehend. (Certainly, that’s what students mean.) But when did it become such a virtue to announce that we are incapable of handling something? Why do we now feel that it’s acceptable to ignore anything that taxes us?
Imagine someone going into a gym and trying to lift five pounds. They find it very hard. Any normal person would think, “Wow, I’m really weak. That’s awful. I need to exercise until I’m stronger.” But if we approached this situation the way many of us approach mental tasks, we’d think, “Wow, that’s too heavy. This is stupid. This is for losers. I’m out of here.”
And thus we become a society of intellectually flabby brain-wimps. Worse, we become a nation of brain-wimps that prides itself on its ignorance, doing so in an unspoken compact where we pretend that our weakness is a virtue, so that we can reinforce each other’s desperation to ignore it.