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[Fwd: Education as a Commodity]

Christine Ladislaw ladislaw at bu.edu
Tue Nov 18 23:56:55 EST 1997

Alice said:

: 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...."   

I think that's really sad and unfortunate.  As a student (just finished my BA
in Biochem/mole bio, working on my MA in Biotech) I can tell you that DESPITE
being pressured by peers and some professors to have to study for grades'
sake, there are some of us getting throug hh the cracks and actually learning
for learning's sake.  Ifwere here at Boston University perhaps you would have
overheard something like you were referring to.... some of us actually leave
classes and are still discussing things we've learned when we get to lunch.

But I admit that perhaps my friends and I are not the norm.  I've known
significantly more students who act as being described here than act as I do.
Most of that I attribute not to the university, but to the educational systems
these students came from.  I came from a great public school system in which I
had great teachers who taught me to think.  And I had parents who were not
grade demanding, but preferred that my brother and I had learned and
questioned as opposed to got an A--which meant that we usually did get the A

As a TF now in a freshman science class for non-majors, I have seen the
empathy and grade-grubbing first hand, amplified by the fact that these kids
came in not caring in the least about learning science, only about "filling
their divisional requirement".  But I'd like to think I've managed to reach
some of them, helped make them think about how science impacts their lives.
But even optimistic estimates tell me that more than half of the students will
have slid right through, barely stopping to pay attention.

By the time a student gets to the university level, there isn't as much that a
professor can do to change their motivation or desire to learn.  But they can
make sure that those who do want to learn don't get turned off and changed
into a grade-grubber.  That shift has often been tempting to me, until I go to
a particularly interesting lecture or read something that makes me remember
why I wanted to be a female scientist in the first place.

And on that note just let me say that I've been reading this newsgroup for
quite some time and learned a lot.  For those of you who were wondering, there
ARE some young students out there reading (I'm 22) and your experiences and
advice are being passed on to help others.  Perhaps this thread will bring me
permanently out of my lurking to contribute as the "token young'un".

Oh, and on a related thread, I'm positive that I have never gotten nearly as
much positive feedback as negative feedback.... and I was one of the top
students in my graduating class (not meaning to be snobbish here, just
pointing out that if I wasn't getting positive feedback, I'm not sure how many
people were).  Not to say that I never got positive feedback, but if I was
depending on it to motivate me to do more work, I'd still be waiting.  But
from the looks of it, my school was at the top end of the scale.... I've
mostly had wonderful professors who really taught me and who were willing and
excited to engage in conversation outside of a classroom (although everyone
loves talking about their pet projects, right?)

Christine, who is counting her blessings that she went to such a cool school

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