Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Attack of the Profess-Oppressors!

In a fit of frustration at the resistance she was getting in her required-for-majors class, one of my colleagues once said of her undergraduates, "They just don't trust me."

I think this is a problem lots of professors experience in college classrooms. Many [not all] college students do not trust their professors. They do not trust the professors to have their best interests at heart. They do not trust their professors' expertise as both scholars and educators. They do not trust that when the professors explain expectations that they really mean them. I think part of this stems from students mis-attributing portrayals of fictional college experience (usually from film & TV) as well as their inability to grasp the difference between the education and agenda of their High School instructors and that of their much-more educated University instructors (who are often also scholars). Along with this ignorance, factor the self-esteem, snowflake blizzard of specialness (such as that leading to some secondary schools discontinuing Honor Roll so the poorly performing students don't feel bad and even grade inflation) into this mess and we have a whole generation of kids with some warped ideas of what college education is supposed to entail.

Thus, we have the fiction crafted by irrational(?) students of what I am now going to forever call:


You see, undergraduates feel oppressed when professors do any of the following:

  • Expect students to be punctual

  • Expect students to attend class regularly

  • Expect students to meet deadlines

  • Expect students to respect the professors, the class, and fellow classmates

  • Expect students to turn off their cell phone and refrain from texting during class

  • Expect students to use laptops in class for note-taking (not IM, web-surfing, or solitaire)

  • Expect students to format papers properly (like double-spacing & using proper margins)

  • Expect students to use proper punctuation, grammar, and capitalization

  • Expect students to complete assignments (full-stop)

  • Expect students to pay attention

  • Expect students to take their own notes

  • Expect students to participate in class

  • Expect students to buy the textbook (and other supplies)

  • Expect students to read the textbook & other assigned readings

  • Expect students to read the syllabus

  • Expect students to familiarize themselves with the policies in the syllabus

  • Expect students to learn the lessons taught in the course

  • Expect students to earn at least mediocre grades (C) on all assessments

  • Expect students to ask questions to clarify expectations

  • Expect students to demonstrate a modicum of intellectual curiosity [on anything!]

All of these things [and a litany more I am sure I missed] are now considered emblematic of professorial tyranny against the undergraduate! Such Draconian policies as expecting regular attendance are tantamount to heresy on some campuses. And some apparently believe that the expectation for a student to buy a book for a college course exemplifies class oppression!

Good heavens! Class oppression!

Maniacal professors actually expect adults to read for class?!?!?!? They must be stopped at all costs.

With 40-60% of the faculty teaching undergraduate courses on American campuses being listed as "part-time," "adjunct," or "contingent" with little job security, poor pay, and no benefits (including such perks as office space, copying facilities, or basic human respect from office staff), I think that job's getting done right quick.