A friend and I were discussing our educational experiences today. We were discussing the general lackadaisical nature of elementary and secondary school, vs. the much better experience we had in college.
It got me thinking about how much of the benefit we gain from education is determined by our own motivation and attitude. Until you've graduated from high school you are pretty much forced to be there. As a result, you find yourself surrounded by a lot of people who adamantly don't want to be there in the first place. The end result of this is a lot of wasted class time and a lot of nonsense rules.
When you get to college things improve, because although your parents may be pushing you to be there, if you drop out the sheriff isn't going to show up at their door... The end result is more people who want to be there, but still there are plenty of people who would rather be somewhere else. In college I found that I could learn almost as little or as much as I wanted in any given class. A perfect example is Art Appreciation. We were required to take either Music Appreciation or Art Appreciation. As a musician, the "easy class" was the music one, but I decided to take art because I knew nothing about art. From day one my attitude and enthusiasm in the class was vastly different than almost all of the other students. Everyone was taking it because it was a requirement, but I had decided to use it to learn as much as possible about art, rather than just checking off the box on my schedule. As a result, I absolutely loved the class, and I learned a bit about a subject that I otherwise was clueless about.
With seminary there was a significant change from undergraduate work. Very few people go to seminary out of obligation, they go because they want to. This makes things like group projects far more interesting because everyone is (generally) engaged in the material. At the same time there are classes that people are only taking because they have to. Still, post-graduate was my favorite level of education for both the challenge and the overall academic environment.
I agreed to teach several of our staff members Hebrew this year. We started about three weeks ago, and the difference between students who are taking a requirement and pastors who want to learn something is incredible. I have never seen a more engaged group of students than this one. Everyone is eager to learn the material and is quick with questions. It's like having a classroom full of star students. Not only is it an honor to teach them the language of the old testament, it's a blast at the same time. I am fully confident that when we are done every one of these guys could test out of Hebrew at any seminary in the country.
My point? The reason this class is full of super stars isn't because they all have a natural affinity for semitic languages. The reason is because they all want to be here, and they all want to learn the material. Treat every class, even art appreciation, like it matters and you will be astonished how much more you get out of your education.