Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The "Do We Have to Generation." Mid Career Mike Muses.

Like many people on here, I'd bet, I read that Dumbest Generation book you folks were pushing on us a few weeks ago.

It's a fascinating read, and it sort of supports a number of things many of us likely feel. Today's student doesn't want to read. They aren't inquisitive. They're dulled by testing, and simply want to endure this thing called "education."

It's a terrible burden for those of us who actually get a kick out of teaching.

My freshmen have ALWAYS been bad. Don't get me wrong. They're kids, of course. "Do we have to put a title on the essay?" "Do we have to be here on Tuesday?" "Do we have to read ALL those pages?" But, shit, they're freshmen so we pushed them around. We made them. I'd stand up there and bat all that stuff away. "Have to? Yes, you HAVE to."

And as they got older, they developed some inquisitiveness because what you were teaching them actually was interesting, actually did catch some of them. That's how you develop majors, of course. The kids in your class who love the stuff in your field want to know more about it. They take 200 and 300 level classes. They ask you to be their advisor. And then later they're saying things like, "What about Illinois as a grad school?"

But, sheesh, it HAS gotten worse. My freshmen now are not just dumb and lazy, they're dumb, lazy, and proud of it. There's sort of arrogance in how little they know or want to know. And "Yes, you HAVE to," gets replied with "Oh yeah! Why?"

Frankly, I don't want to work that hard. Last week I actually lost my cool in a one on one meeting with a particularly idiotic student who simply kept saying, "I don't want to rewrite that." After a pause I said, "Fine. If you don't give a shit, then I don't give a shit." He hasn't returned to class, and I hope he fucking drops.

I like to think I can really reach kids. I do, too. I get a few of them fired up after 15 weeks of motivation. It's hard, but I love that moment when someone learns - or better yet, find some pleasure in the learning.

But when they don't find pleasure in anything other than celebrity culture and their peers' Facebook and Twitter accounts (which is what the Dumbest Generation found), what are we to do? I can't prove to them that the study of my field will reward them with ducats or prizes. I teach in the Humanities. I'm all about making human beings...yeah, I know you're rolling your eyes. But I truly believe it. It's the path I took, and I think it's an important step in becoming a better, happier person.

So, yes, you have to. And you have to do it by next class. And, although I suspect you won't like it, I still want you to do it anyway.

But for how many years, and for how many iterations of the modern student can *I* stand it?