Thoughts on Education

Critical Mass and Sigmund, Carl and Alfred have two posts which brought me to say, “I need to think about these things.”

The following is a quote from a quote in the Critical Mass entry:

It’s heartbreaking to read the comments that students who’ve been betrayed by their universities write at Rate My Professors. These students almost always begin by mentioning their excitement about taking the course, their interest in the subject. They then flatly state that exposure to this professor has killed forever their interest and excitement. A series of questions usually follows. Why is this person teaching? Why does this person get paid to teach? Why is a university classroom like this one? I thought it would be different, going to a university…

This article comes in reaction to Frisch, the adjunct who blog commented in extremely inappropriate terms about a blogger’s two year old child.

The only student of Frisch’s that I’ve heard about said that she acted appropriately in class and engaged in debate. The student was a conservative and disagreed with what she said/taught, but said that the classroom was carried well.

I wonder, sometimes, how much of the students’ complaints are actually about the teachers and how much is about how much work the class was. (I give A LOT of work. But there is a rationale behind it that fits my philosophy of education completely. I wonder if I should make a bigger deal of telling my students about it.)

And this is a quote from what was at Sigmund’s, but is actually written by The Irascible Professor.

We’ve taught you to glory in self-expression while we’ve disdained troubling you with the tedious details like spelling, punctuation, and grammar that make clear expression possible. We’ve so inflated your grades and your self-esteem that they far exceed your achievements and abilities. American students, for instance, are more confident and comfortable with their math skills and prowess than their international peers, even though their actual math skills and prowess don’t rank anywhere near the top of the international heap.

He is speaking to students, the students I get in my freshman English classes often, the ones who think they should be able to get an A because they are native speakers. But they don’t do the work. They don’t make the required corrections. They don’t do the research for the research paper. They plagiarize their work, without citations…

I am amazed that almost every semester my students come in to class obviously expecting to get out of class, to finish it. And every semester half of them drop.

I do require a lot of papers- five plus two short research papers on the same topic- but I also let them rewrite papers and I average the original with the rewrite. And I only ask them to fix their errors on the rewrite. It doesn’t have to substantively change. (Unless they were WAY off topic.) The idea there is that they learn more from doing what they did the correct way than they would from doing grammar problems from a book. It helps them to have experience having written in their own style, but correctly.

I guess I think that high school and lower may have given the students an inflated sense of their ability, but college tends to pop that balloon pretty quickly.