Monday, April 19, 2010

Vashna From Vienna Does It Old Skool Up In This Mother. She Wants To Know Why Students Can't Take Notes!

I teach philosophy, OLD-SKOOL. Plato didn’t use a power-point and neither do I. Socrates didn’t have handouts, and neither do I. Consider yourself LUCKY that we have a book, a board, and some chalk (yeah CHALK – SERIOUSLY OLD SKOOL!) Aristotle didn’t have any of that when he taught.

So up in this piece, we are going to learn by reading, discussing, and TAKING NOTES. Yeah, I have blackboard. But I’m only going to use it to post grades, and thought provoking questions that you can think about while reading. And NO – these are not test questions; they are too broad for test questions. (“What ought you to do to be morally good according to Kant? How does he come to this conclusion?”) Then I’m going to lecture about what you read. And if you read with this question in mind, and TAKE NOTES on the lecture, you should be ready for anything I throw at you on test day like - “You want to borrow money and not return it. Explain what Kant would say.” It’s a simple formula for a passing grade.

However, for some students, it’s not working. For the 4th or 5th time this semester, I’ve stayed after class talking with a student who is not doing well in my class. Each time I start with, “Let me see your notes.”

The notes are SHIT. ABSOLUTE FUCKING SHIT!!!! No wonder why they’re not doing well in my course. They have not written down one single relevant comment that I have made in class. Or if they do write something down, it makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever. What good are notes if you can’t read them and understand what was said in the lecture??? You don’t believe me… let me tell you.

I used an argument for gay-marriage to show how to refute an argument. I always preface this by saying, “I am very pro-gay marriage.” Not because my opinion matters, but because I want to make sure that I’m not offending any students. But the point of the argument is to discuss how to argue properly (as in, if you disagree, don’t talk about what your momma, or your preacher said. Find a flaw with the argument, as it is stated, and tell me what the flaw is.) This is a 15-20 minute lecture.

At the end of class, one of my students said he was confused. So I said, “Let me see your notes.” And what do I see….. “Vashna is pro-gay marriage.” THAT’S IT. Nothing about fallacies, nothing about arguing responsibly, nothing about how to refute an argument. Are you fucking kidding me? Does that sound like something I would even ask on a test???

OR they only write what is on the board. If I’m discussing Nietzsche, I will write on the board, “Master Morality” and “Slave Morality” and proceed to give 30 minutes on the characteristics of each and how they relate to his views of the world.

And once again, a student is confused. I ask to see the notes and the ONLY thing written is…. “Master Morality” and “Slave Morality.” NOTHING ELSE. So I ask, “Why didn’t you write any of the information I said in the lecture down?” The response, “I didn’t know we needed to write that. It wasn’t on the board.” WHAT THE FUCK???? And please tell me exactly what are those two phrases going to mean to you when you try to use those notes to study for the test?

And they always tell me that their “other instructors” give them notes.

And each time they tell me that, I start to hate some of my colleagues. I hate those of you who give the students power point slides of every word you uttered, uploaded on blackboard, to be downloaded at the student’s convenience. I hate those of you who only test over the words in bold – as if we are teaching VOCABULARY, and not theories and critical thinking. And I REALLY hate those of you who not only spoon feed the information, but also allow all of your spoon-fed information to be used during the test – open books, open note, (and they don’t even have to worry about the quality of the notes, after all they’re the INSTRUCTOR’S!!!)

You are making me look bad, for expecting nothing more than what WE were expected to do when we were in school (prior to technology.) But more importantly, you are teaching them to be dumb and lazy and not to think. You’re teaching them to sit around waiting for handouts. And then you have the audacity to wonder why they never bother to figure things out. YOU TAUGHT THEM NOT TO EVEN TRY!!!!

But whatever, I’m going to continue to be the bitch that actually expects my students to learn the skill of note-taking (because it IS a skill, and it IS useful to know) among all of the other tidbits they are supposed to get out of my course. They may hate me now, but when they are at their future job in a boring ass meeting where only 10% of the information said actually pertains to them (but that 10%, if missed, could cost them their job), they will know to WRITE THAT PART DOWN, and then they will thank me.