Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Sense of Experimentation Has Been Lost.

A visiting professor at a California university sends along this insightful post:

I realized early on in my teaching career that the students I was teaching were the products of "self-esteem" building in grade and high school. The majority of them were terrified of criticism, and needed a great deal of hand holding throughout the entire class. These were Clinton-era kids who were into a false sense of empowerment that made them better students.

Now with the new regime and the supposed return to standards, everyone is incredibly results and test oriented. I've adapted by delivering discreet packets of information to them, by casting ideas and concepts that I believe to be much more ambiguous and complex in simpler terms. Perhaps I am a better teacher -- it's certainly less stressful because I "lose" fewer students. And I get better evaluations.

But I think what has gotten lost is the sense of experimentation in teaching undergraduates. I used to be much more open-ended about my courses, more willing to test ideas out loud, and to build arguments in a multi-dimensional way.