Third-year cure…

Third-year cured of epilepsy, but loses short-term memory 

By Amy Mittinger

Published: Monday, May 24, 2010 Updated: Monday, May 24, 2010

I transferred to Ohio State as a junior this year in the hopes of studying journalism. I graduated from high school with a 4.3 grade point average while playing varsity softball and volleyball, and earning a full year of college credit in the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program. Before arriving to OSU, I thought, “Piece of cake!” But I was wrong.

After completing one quarter at OSU and receiving poor grades, my application to the communication school was denied. I didn’t expect to receive a low GPA and little attention from professors when asking for help.

So what is today’s education system coming to? College students are typically evaluated by multiple-choice exams and learn their grade when Scantrons are returned.

The process is getting worse by the minute. We have all witnessed the typical college professor recite lists of terms to a lecture hall of students who have fallen asleep while updating their Facebook statuses.

I never noticed this pathetic attempt to teach and learn until I had to adjust to it. As a student who is not guilty of distracting herself, my success was suddenly interrupted before arriving to the university.

Five years ago, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, a neurological disorder that involves seizures. The sensory convulsions occurred in the left temporal lobe of my brain, a place vital to storing short-term memory. I attempted to correct the problem by having brain surgery, a temporal lobectomy, at the Cleveland Clinic in summer 2008. It worked miracles to prevent the episodes but inhibited my short-term memory.

Memorizing names and dates throughout the quarter is no picnic for the average student, but for me, it is nearly impossible.

Surprisingly, my longterm memory remains unharmed. I was told that it is housed in a different area of the brain. This explains why I can still recite the 50 states in alphabetical order, a list of common prepositions and irregular verbs in Spanish, all of which I learned in middle school. I am grateful that I have retained information from 10th grade and before. Basic facts, math problems and grammatical rules will always be useful.

But ask me what I learned last fall, and your answer will consist of nothing but a blank stare. However, this doesn’t scare me. There’s a handy device called a computer that can remind me of any fact in the blink of an eye. Hence my argument: What’s the difference between looking up information for the first time or researching it 10 years later to remember?

I have read statistics that say, like me, most adults can only remember and apply a small percentage of what they learn in college. I’m sure other students would agree that such specific details can slip anyone’s mind, as we are all human and capable of forgetting things. So why don’t professors realize this?

Instead of evaluating college students based on their memory alone, I have one simple suggestion: Let’s throw away the Scantrons and focus on students’ intelligence at hand.

Whether it be writing an essay, completing a research project or allowing students to take the typical exam if they choose, let students with the drive to succeed prove their intelligence. If they’re like me, they may not choose a comprehensive Scantron exam that’s easier to grade. But alternate tests will better prepare students for their future careers and give everyone in college a true run for their money.


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