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Disruptive Thinkers: David Masters Thinks Studying Should Be Fun

Can College Work Be Fun?David Masters

David Masters, a student, self-described “part-time peace activist,” and blogger, has an appealing worldview: life should be creative and playful. Here’s where it gets interesting: David doesn’t let students off the hook. He argues on his thoughtful blog, Be Playful, that undergrads should enjoy their academic efforts. Indeed, studying should even be, dare I say it: “fun.”

After hearing this claim I knew I had to interview David. There is something downright Zen about his take on student life, so, considering our recent conversations, I thought we should poke around a bit and see if we can’t figure out what makes this fun-loving student tick.

First things first: the major. What’s your advice here?

Choose a subject that you love and that you’re passionate about rather than focusing on what gives you the best career prospects. I chose a combined major of Theology and Social Sciences for two reasons: I love searching for meaning, and I’m passionate about social justice and making the world a better place. [ed. Daniel Pink would agree.]

What does it mean to connect your classes to everyday life?

Making your studies meaningful to you means that they become a part of who you are; it also makes studying a joyful experience rather than a slow drudge, because you can see how what you are studying makes an impact on you (or the world) right now.

For example, in my Political Theology class we’ve been learning about how the state maintains its power through violence. It’s interesting to apply this idea to news about different countries, like how China has been treating pro-Tibet protesters, and how America shows off its power through the war on terror.

I’ve heard you mention an interesting trick regarding the bibliography for a paper…

When choosing books to read for a writing assignment I try to make sure that the majority of books in my bibliography aren’t on the course reading list. Choosing books that aren’t on the reading list makes your paper stand out to the professor; it will be different from the pack and will read as more independent and creative.

You claim you can make studying more like play. Let’s say it’s a typical day for David. What does it look like?

This may initially sound like a contradiction, but the key ways in which my studying is playful is that it is structured and focused. Sports and games, though playful, are very structured, and it is this structure that allows for great feats and achievements.

I know the best time for me to study is in the morning, so I study then. I read the assignments, and I work on the paper. I prefer working at the desk in my room, so my notes are handy to compare different ideas; if I’m in the library, I’ll find a quiet corner desk near to the shelf I’m researching. I like to be done by 4pm to have time and space to socialize and relax.

I guess what is different is the way in which I engage with my studies. When I read through the assignments, the most important thing I am looking for is new concepts, or old concepts seen in a new way, and connections to other things that I have read, and I’ll mark up these. [ed. Scott Young would agree.]

What’s the biggest mistake you see your fellow students make in how they approach their academic lives?

Failing to be organized and to structure their study. I guess many students see this as freedom, but in my mind, they’re a slave to deadlines. Having a structure means that you can work at your own, relaxed pace, and you don’t feel guilty or worried about unknown looming deadlines, because you know exactly what’s coming up.

Any final unexpected nuggets to share with us?

I think one of the best things that students can do is to contribute to the world in some way. It’s best to choose just one thing to give your time to, so you don’t end up over-scheduling yourself.

I loved the Study Hacks story of Tyler and how he applies what he learned in his past studies to make a different to the world doing cancer research.

6 thoughts on “Disruptive Thinkers: David Masters Thinks Studying Should Be Fun”

  1. Although I graduated in 1973, Shakespeare and the Bible and Aristotle have not changed in the intervening 35 years. Although science and technology quickly become dated, a classical education stands solid. Whatever people study, I hope the educational institution takes the formation process very seriously.

  2. Why should I care what this student thinks? I didn’t learn anything new learning this. I’m sorry to be so crass but really, I didn’t see the point of this. I guess I just don’t see the interviewee as a reputable source or expert.


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