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aloisia schmid a-schmi at uiuc.edu
Mon Nov 17 15:02:21 EST 1997

> Oh, Alice, I agree with your observations completely, but I think we need
> to stop looking only at the students, and blaming them for it.  I think
> there is a lot in the culture of the intellect that is pretty damn uncool.
>snipped bunches out about nasty things some professors do.....
> Maybe I'm naive, but when, in my TA-ing experiences, I've been clear to
> my students about my expectations, supportive of their questions (no matter
> how 'stupid'), friendly and approachable, and when the exams were perceived
> as fair rather than nit-picky, I haven't really found much problem with
> either attitude or cheating.  And the same is true out in the "real
> world."  I have a large vocabulary, but I've never been slammed for using
> "big words," only asked to explain them, and when I do, I've been thanked
> for the information.  I don't let the person know that I think they
> "should have known" the word, before explaining it.
> I think that intellectuals could go a long way
> towards defusing the hostility towards themselves if they would keep their
> egos and competitiveness in check, and cultivate a more "we're in this
> approach, rather than a "learning is a contest" approach.
> Karen

Well, I agree Karen, that some intellectuals have done alot to shoot
themselves in the foot.  But I am finding that there is an almost hostile
attitude towards well-read or literate people with large vocabularies that
has little to do with their own attitudes . 

It is true that most students are happy when you take them seriously and
when you explain things that they don't understand.  I don't want to take
credit away from them for that.  However, my complaint is that they expect
you to do that for them, rather than showing a little gumption and looking
things up on their own!  

They are impatient with people who are well-read and literate and dismiss
them as being snobs.  I would never say all students are like that, but I
see it in a lot of them--I would even say, in the majority.   Even the
best students that I have seen (here, at least), do no more than rote
memorization---and are considered the best students for that reason.  Even
at the graduate student level:  when they present papers in a journal
club, they simply read the paper and tell you what is presented in the
figures.  They do not put it in a broader context and they do not read the
references.  When post-docs give papers, they do it well and set an
example---- that is dismissed by these same graduate students as being
something a post-doc would do but that is not necessary for a grad

My complaint is not that people aren't open to learning.  My complaint is
that they take the opportunity for granted.  That they resent it when work
is required of them, and they seem to have no joy in learning--at least
not to the extent that they make an effort to learn things on their own.  


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