I think we all remember a time (or maybe a few) in middle school or high school when we raised our hand to express some ingenious idea we had, only to be immediately shut down by the teacher. Pre-Continental Drift theory — one can only imagine how many students in geography courses said, "Hey, those continents look like they fit together." Then the teacher would say, "No, stop trying."
Well, college is pretty different. Unless you're in math, your ideas aren't usually flat out wrong. I know, it's shocking. You can express thoughts and no one will call you out for being ridiculous (in theory, at least).
I was in my American Studies class the other day, a philosophy class, discussing the poetry of Hughes, Whitman and Ginsberg. For context, my professor likes to break everything down very carefully into minute detail. You can't get away with spewing out thoughts without being asked to define the words and concepts that you used in your explanation. We were talking about how "hopeful" some of these poems were, and I decided to take a page from my professor and try to define exactly what "hope" is.
I raised my hand and disagreed, saying that these poems were actually not hopeful. I believe that the word hope has the connotation of relying on external forces to assist in a situation. My professor disagreed, but he didn't say I was wrong. Then, as the class went on, more and more of my classmates started agreeing with my point. Soon, this definition of "hope" became part of the main discussion. I find the interpretation of language really fascinating, so this conversation was right up my alley.
It's so nice being able to discuss things with professors and know that neither party has to be right or wrong. You both get to bring your background knowledge and prior experiences to the table to try to figure out something together. Of course, it was also a welcome experience to have my peers chime in, and it's also relieving not to have as strict a lesson plan as in high school. This flexibility lets our conversations wander and develop naturally.
In college, professors aren't "teaching to test," so I've noticed our classes can slow down and inspect concepts without the fear of missing too much material. This aspect of college is something I really enjoy.