On Thu, May 30, 2013 at 9:27 AM, Robert Hansen <email@example.com> wrote: > > Fine, a successful student. I seem to recall that the phrase "a student of X" meant a successful and progressing student of X, not just someone that shows up for the class. Maybe it was used in that sense in past literature but today it means nothing more than just someone that shows up for class. > > Bob Hansen > >
Some people say "I suck at languages" meaning they consider themselves pretty much incapable of learning to speak or read another human language besides their native one.
I've been known to say something like that myself, expressing sincere humility regarding my relative lack of talent in this direction, compared to that of many of my contemporaries.
In studying Hiragana and Katakana alphabets using a smartphone app, I am not really hoping to master Japanese but only to flash through more of the Unicode codespace, becoming familiar with associational webs going out from these alphabets. It's a way to study and appreciate culture, even if I will never be fluent in manga or anime in the way a native Japanese person might be.
Patrick, of Irish heritage, strong skills in math, national labs, psychometrics... he's more into learning elementary Japanese for real, to help his kids in their elementary school immersion program, run by one of the Japanese language magnets in PPS. I posted in reference to this school somewhat recently. 
In any case, one can, should, and often is, an earnest, sincere, ardent student of X, without being especially good at or even getting much better at X. Call it being appreciative or admiring of or enjoying for the sake of.
One may enjoy a great movie, symphony or painting without being oneself great in any of these kinds of making. But, having tried a little, become a student of, taking in what one is able, one does deserve the title of "student of".
That's a way to see STEM and how others will develop in ways we do not. Having respect for one's peers is a great job skill and basic eigenvector of EQ, so lets not discourage students from tackling things they won't be good at. If you're already super duper at algebra, why not try German?
Take programming (computer) as another example: some take to it like ducks to water. The new skills become tools for extending their own powers of self expression and they get a lot of satisfaction from the activity, almost as an end in itself. Others never seem like ducks in that medium, with regard to those skills, but they nevertheless get a front row seat on what software is made of and how people make a living doing it.
As an anthropological experience, there's a widening of one's scope, and that, I would suggest, is rightly called "an educational experience."
Our goal in STEM is not to stamp out carbon copies of the two or five "ideal student" templates we have in mind. Diversity is such a hugely desirable trait, yet some just give lipservice to it, not really believing their own speeches.
Having students blossom as "individuals" sounds like an embarrassingly bad outcome to some, as uniformity is so much the goal in so much of industry. These widgets are valuable *precisely because* they're all alike, not because of their variations. That mentality gets applied to schools, seen as factories in this metaphor, students their products, too much variability a disturbance and sure sign of processes gone awry. 
There's not just one bell curve we all care about and schools should not be hijacked by any one ethnicity when it comes to defining the scales. That's hard to swallow for some. They'll agree in principle but it's the practice that's sometimes hard. In some enclaves, pluralism is demonized as too dangerously corrosive to ever be tolerable. That kind of xenophobia has itself proved the undoing of too many a culture; resilience comes through exposure and exchange, not isolationism. Some schools prepare diplomats who plan to work things out. Others produce bullies trained to get their way regardless of cost or danger. I see diplomacy as offering the brighter future.
Anyway, my main point is we should be respectful of learning situations wherein one does not show up at the higher end of the bell curve. It's OK to "suck" at this or that, and yet have an interest in learning it anyway, as a mode of enjoyment, as a hobby you might say, but as a form of self discipline and working out in some kind of personal gym, is another way to look at it. Be tolerant of yourself being on the lower end of many bell curves. Don't discriminate against all you're not good at as either irrelevant or unworthy of your attention.