Take Note

There are a few phrases that can mark you out as a jerk.

“Yeah man, Jersey Shore looks like such a fun time—I totally identify with “The Situation,” for example. Or “The only way this Ed Hardy shirt could look cooler is if the tiger was covered in rhinestones,” maybe. Perhaps less obvious, but for me, as damning, is the following: “Yeah, I don’t share notes.”

We’re all students struggling to balance life, extra-curriculars, and jobs while still doing well at school. We’re each other’s peers, and we’re supposed to be in this together. But more and more frequently I’m noticing students turning down their classmates’ requests for notes from that lecture they missed last Friday. What’s the big deal, guys?

But, the diligent note-hoarder counters, they’re the ones who attended the class. They showed up while you were sick/frantically writing a paper for another class/hung over as all hell. They put in the time and you didn’t.

This is true.

But let’s think about it. The act of note-taking involves little to no work; you effectively sit in a room and write down the words of someone more intelligent than you. You don’t own the knowledge. Nobody is going to the professor and asking for make-up notes.

Realistically, someone who was absent from class isn’t going to benefit from second-hand notes to any great degree.

Robbed of its context, “-Freudian analysis of King Arthur character” doesn’t mean much, and will provide only the most basic assistance in the absentee’s quest to understand whatever they’ve missed.

Similarly, any participation component included in the grading scheme of the course has already cost the skipper some marks, so they’re likely heading into the final exam with a diminished average.

But what’s wrong with helping a classmate succeed academically? Are we so Machiavellian that we want to see our colleagues fail? Surely there will be some point in the note withholder’s academic career where they will indeed also miss class—an environmental disaster, perhaps? Being held at gun point?—and they will find the tables turned. Do they expect a similarly harsh refusal?

I owe a great deal of my success in a recent history course to a kind benefactor who sent me a last minute package of his study notes. He asked for nothing in return and didn’t gain anything from sending them to me. And although he finished the course with a mark two per cent higher than my own, I did pretty well in my own right, and couldn’t have done it without him.

If a friend needs to borrow my notes, they’re more than welcome to them. Treating others the way you want to be treated is a lesson no one should need to attend class to learn.

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