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[Fwd: Education as a Commodity]

aloisia schmid a-schmi at uiuc.edu
Tue Nov 18 17:08:10 EST 1997

In article <347202C0.4DB2 at nospamsalk.edu>, forsburg at nospamsalk.edu wrote:

> > Aren't there any students reading this group? Doesn't anyone remember
> > what it was like to be a student? 
....... yes, I remember
> being a student, and I keep that thought close to me as a teacher.
> And I expect my students to work hard and make an honest effort
> just as I did.  In turn, I try to create an environment where 
> they can learn, and I work hard at my teaching.  If they don't want
> to make an effort, and  to fulfill their 
> side of the bargain, that's not my fault.  But I resent it when they
> can't be bothered to take it seriously, and waste my time.
> Finally, reading all these posts, am I glad I don't teach undergrads!
> -- 
> -susan

This is exactly my point!  karen, I have all the respect in the world for
your ambition to see things from the students' point of view, and to put
yourself in those shoes--especially after your bad experiences of being
falsely accused of cheating.  However.  

I never made the blanket statement that all students are bad, or that
there are no people left with an interest in learning.  My observation is
that there is a trend to move away from that;  that there are new values
being tested and accepted that diminish the value of the professor's input
in to the learning process by diminishing the respect for what he/she
knows.  That the learning process itself is being de-valued by the cynical
idea that learning for the sake of learning is for losers, and that the
winners, the people who win the game, the people who play the game the
best---are the ones who get the grades.  And all the rest just doesn't
matter.....So getting the grade is the ONLY thing this new breed of
student cares about, and that, in my opinion diminishes the whole
process---the students who DO want to learn for learning's sake, are
disrespected.  The TAs are cast aside as unworthy underlings.  Professors
are relegated to a role of technician, and even the students who have the
cynical (gotta get the grade) attitude make themselves hard and
unreachable, and are, themselves, diminished by this new value system.  

When i first posted to this thread, the point I was trying to make is that
the pure joy in the love of learning is something i hardly ever encounter
anymore, and was something that I myself really enjoyed having at the same
age.  And that it isn't there makes me not enjoy teaching very much.  But
Karen, where you and I (and a few others who've emailed me) disagree is
that I do not believe this reflects on the quality of the teaching.  If it
did, then the people who are clearly gifted teachers would not have the
same experiences, and from what I have heard, they ARE having the same
frustrations and concerns. 

Sabine said there are some things that are just boring and you try to get
through them, and you concentrate on the stuff that interests you.  But
the undergrads I am seeing are not taking the time to find out what
interests them.  They are doing whatever it takes to ace tomorrow's
chemistry/physics/insert one here exam.  I have been at this university
for 3 years and have not once heard, or even over-heard a student say, "I
just read the coolest thing.  Did you know...."   

One of the things I have come to realize, in watching my parents adjust to
retirement, is that becoming a well-educated person makes it possible for
you to be a happy person the whole rest of your life.  If you can find
interest and excitement in the world, even when your work is no longer
engaging you and even when your days are suddenly unstructured, then you
can be a happy and stimulated person at any age.  This means, though,
learning about things at every stage of your life.  It means extending
yourself, really pushing yourself to find out more about what stands
before you,  and most of all it means reveling in the process of
learning.  I believe that the purpose of a college education is to teach
you about your place in time and space;  to teach you about who and what
has come before and to provide you with insights or ideas as to what might
yet come.  To provide you with a framework for your own existence.  The
fact that the students I am encountering these days seem only to care
about what will be on the test worries me,  not only because I think this
trend might forever change higher education, and the profession I was
hoping to find great joy in for a few more decades.....but it also worries
me because I think that when this generation gets old, the world is going
to be populated by some pretty cynical, hard-nosed, bored people.  


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