Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I would like to express my sincere appreciation of, agreement with and no small amount of personal delight in the views many professors express on your blog. I am a member of a student contingent who believes you and other professors should repeatedly "kick our asses" into high gear. I feel compelled to share a few thoughts from the peanut gallery of slightly educated babies, for you and the other professors who feel (and rightly so) unappreciated, defeated, ridiculed, etc.
I often find myself the first person (from the time a book was brought to the institution) to bother withdrawing a particular text from the library, or to read an applicable resource outside of the assigned readings for a course. I would also lobby for more reading and writing in courses: two six page papers and a three-hundred page textbook in an upper level undergraduate art history course cannot be enough!
To speak symbolically, we must learn the language of a given discipline. Soren Kierkegaard and Immanuel Kant are delightfully engaging, but one cannot engage/play with their ideas until you read and understand them (not that I have even begun to understand many things, hence my continued education). Comprehension and application are but two goals that you, as professors who are routinely evaluated and accredited, push us towards. Likewise, I believe that any subtlety and nuance a text, image, equation, etc. may hold cannot be appreciated by a mind untrained in the core concepts of its respective discipline.
Any given institution has a few "bad apples" in the bunch, but we are so foolish as students when we lump the entire faculty under one heading. Why do we express a hostile attitude? Why the adversarial relationship? Quite simply put: most of us are spoiled rotten, lazy, close-minded little people puffed up on pride (I have to include myself here). We have been raised in a society that repeatedly tells us how much we are entitled to (before we have even begun to WORK!) and how important we personally are. This is in direct opposition to the history, needs, expectations and requirements of most of the world. Very often, professors will be the first "no" we ever encounter, or the first voice that says, "Well, as marvelous as all your achievements to date are, you still need to continue to work hard." "Yes, it will be that way until you die...so, until Kanye West calls you with an offer, I suggest you study your ass off."
Any professor has my full support who unabashedly reminds their students that "higher" education is a privilege, not a damn birthright. Yes, I don't care that we work to earn and pay for it...earning and retaining a place in the classroom only highlights my point.
Despite our tuition fees being a "drop in the bucket" of college and university operating costs, students pay you to do precisely what you are doing: educate us, teach us to THINK and exercise our lazy minds. I cannot tell you how frustrated I am with society's anti-intellectual attempts to relegate education. We honestly believe that "old books" contain irrelevant ideas, that we should not study something we don't see a practical application for and that grades are a collection of numeric brownie points, expressing the worth of any given human being.
We don't want to be graded for how we actually learn, process or synthesize thought and express ourselves coherently. We need t-shirts that say, "Please mark me quickly, based on how wonderful I think I am, so I can get the hell out of here and get a real job." The meta-culture of North American consumerism, coupled with pseudo-utilitarian value judgements are tearing down the efforts you make to help us grow beyond ourselves. I can only hope that future generations will appreciate your valuable work and fund it heavily.