More ways colleges are bad for our brains

Last year, my most read post was How colleges are bad for our brains. I included seven facets which have since grown to a dozen. Here the five new ones with the original seven republished below.

8. When we're we're faced with injustices, we take the higher moral ground to restore fairness from our own viewpoint. Nowadays it seems unjust to be forced to pay so much attention to lecturers, to ignore our handhelds streaming with our friends latest news and to single task some meaningless assignment. Our brains get busy figuring out how to restore fairness by ignoring the professor, sneaking looks at handhelds and multitasking while dealing with stupid tasks.
9. When we're overloaded with too much information, our minds go blank. We handle the excessive inputs by shutting down the processing what what we're hearing, seeing or getting asked for in response. We fail to pay attention and appear to space out at a time when it's crucial to absorb everything. We then lose confidence in our minds' abilities to function under academic pressures and assume we fail at other classroom challenges.
10. When we're faced with extremely consistent, familiar and predictable situations, our minds flip onto auto-pilot. We take a load off our massive glucose burner (neocortex) that thinks about anything inconsistent, unfamiliar and unpredictable. We rely on our pattern recognition abilities to know when there will be no surprises and when it's safe to tune out our surroundings. We then appear to be space cadets sitting in college classrooms wasting our time, money and energy being there.
11. When we're overtaxing our memories, our minds conserve storage space by discarding useless information. We forget what seemed pointless, irrelevant or useless at the time we encountered it. However, we easily remember what we did that worked for us, got the intended results or proved to be accurate. We also remember what proved to be waste of time and avoid that in the future. From college courses , we remember what we did and what we got, not what was said or assigned.
12. When we're expected to overt-think or overanalyze a challenge, we lose touch with our pent-up feelings. We assume we can be Spock-like and identify with pure rationality. When our pent-up feelings erupt, our minds quickly invent rationalizations, justifications and coverups to maintain our pretense of rationality. Our inner turmoil escalates under this regime of repression and usually becomes mental or physical problems which are impossible to ignore. We deny we've got those problems until they ruin our lives and force us to dropout of college.

  1. When we're exposed to excessive expertise, we learn to act helpless and then become morbidly dependent on authority figures. This works for submitting to the alpha dog in our pack, but not for knowledge work, creativity, and many other roles that call for our personal resourcefulness.
  2. When we're put under prolonged pressure, we suffer crippling anxiety. We lose physical coordination, mental agility, immune responses and restful sleep. We remain in a state of agitation which we cannot shake off, sleep off or mood alter away. This is our fight/flight response gone awry because the dangerous predators seem to be constantly present.
  3. When we get framed as deviant, defective or deficient, we unconsciously buy into the diagnosis and play the part. The way we get seen, labeled, talked to and evaluated becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. While this worked to maintain safety in numbers and avoid getting kicked out of our tribe, it's not helpful when cultivating our best performance and unique abilities.
  4. When we're subjected to excessive control and guilt trips, we over-compensate in order to restore our emotional balance. We may lash out at others or take out our frustrations on ourselves. Displacing these anxieties gives us urges to overindulge in drinking, shopping, gambling and many other escapes.  While this keeps us from totally losing our minds, it sabotages our relationships, reputations and self respect in the process.
  5. When we're exposed to bad examples, we imitate them regardless of their effectiveness. We may easily become hypocrites, incompetent technicians or bullies if those examples get paraded in front us. This learning by osmosis enables us, as infants, to add twenty new words to our vocabulary every day and to mimic our parents behaviors which meets with their approval. It does not safeguard us against internalizing gibberish or dysfunctional exemplars. 
  6. When losses, setbacks and other misfortunes do not make sense to us, we get devastated and drown in despair.. We are prone to long bouts of depression when we're faced with a barrage of meaninglessness incidents. This works to prevent us from digging a deeper hole for ourselves or from foolishly chasing after rainbows.  However, it does not generate the meaning that's missing or define new directions for us to pursue.
  7. When we're rewarded handsomely for our efforts, we lose our self motivation, creativity and long term perspective. We become addicted to the extrinsic rewards, greedy for more and desperate to maximize our earnings. This works to motivate our stockpiling food for a long winter, but not for taking others' interests to heart. 

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