Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Intelligent. Articulate. Ambitious. And e-v-e-r-y s-i-n-g-l-e t-h-i-n-g you absolutely hate about snowflakes.

Today's student. Shouldn't they create a new sub-category of narcissistic personality disorder in the next DSM just for this type? "Irrelevant and unengaging talks are sapping my productivity." Your productivity? How about our very sanity? Oh, the humanity . . . . Another one of those "Why do I even bother teaching?" moments of horrible Zen clarity.


  1. "Students are paying consumers of the university’s product..."
    Nando's cousin?

  2. You can kick Nando, but he is the future; there are scads of pissed off, jobless grad students over at the "100 Reasons NOT to Go to Graduate School" blog, and they will come here before too long.

    I did not invite Nando, though I comment on his blog.

    That you now have a real dissident and not a King Hell supertroll means this blog has finally grown up.

  3. I think Nando is a transition to the future: he still went to uni, knowing (presumably) what the tuition costs were. I guess he also knew the ranking of the place in question.
    The future is when people don't go to such places, or carefully consider their aim if entry to a 3rd tier institution is what they can get.
    I have sympathy for Nando; I would have even more if he didn't make out like his current situation couldn't have been foreseen with a bit of due diligence.
    Any kicking will be reserved for King Hell Supertroll the Trumpwit.

  4. If she knows she'll be tempted by Facebook, why not just turn off her internet access during the lecture? You don't need it then anyway.

    My laptop is heavy, clunky, and a bitch to carry to class, but I love that little switch.

  5. I don't understand why you would wallow in your mistake.

    I realized at age 21 that I would never be a concert pianist, dropped out of conservatory, redirected, and ended up being successful (ish) in my current discipline. Then the job market tanked, I reconsidered, and now I have an alternative career there between online course design, textbook writing, adjuncting, and DoD consulting work.

    Imagine if I had never let go of piano-ing. I'd be on the streets.

  6. What I want to know, AM, is this: Do you still play piano? Seriously; I absolutely believe that we need to keep encouraging kids to pursue their diverse passions AND we need to try to help them understand that while one may NOT necessarily become a concert pianist, for example, one CAN still play piano...and pay the bills. This may be a lesson Nando did not learn anywhere coming up through elementary, secondary, undergraduate and then into (Mercy!) post-graduate indebtedness...

  7. Not sure what the Nando comments are referencing, but this article didn't seem so bad to me. It's an argument for smaller classes, period. I hate large classes. I hate teaching them, they make me hate my students, they deliver a vastly inferior learning experience. And I get good evals and am considered a good lecturer!

    In the cattle-call classes, I ask my laptoppers to sit in the back row where their flickering screens won't bother anyone, and then whatever they do is their own business. I don't take attendance, but I do in-class quizzes and writing exercises that can't be made up. The end.

  8. Here is the crux: "Banning laptops also runs into the issue of how much universities should be policing their paying student customers."

    The "customer is always right" mentality is what makes this job such a fucking nightmare at times. I have told my students that I will not ban laptops unless someone complains about being distracted. Then I will admit laptops on a case-by-case basis. If I could scramble the Wi-Fi signal, I'd do that.

    I give you a clip from Digital Nation: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/living-faster/split-focus/multitasking-at-mit.html?play

    The problem lies in the idea that the professor is disseminating "irrelevant" and "not new" information--which begs the question: If you're so fucking smart, why the fuck are you in the class in the first place? Why aren't you getting 100% on every paper, quiz, and test in this class? Oh--because you really don't know what's irrelevant and what's not, because you're not the professor? Brilliant. Now STFD and STFU until you're asked to contribute to the discussion that you're obviously well-prepared for because you read the material (twice!) and you know it by heart.

    NB: I teach writing (and critical thinking), and I use PowerPoints to get through basic things at the beginning of the semester. The PowerPoints are available on the course website immediately after the lectures. Students should not make ANY of the mistakes I try to teach them to avoid. But they do it, time and time again, BECAUSE IT'S BORING AND THEY DON'T WANT TO LEARN IT. Or they think they know better than I do, with my piddling 16 years of teaching experience and 25 years' worth of writing practice. It's enough to drive me to drink. During the day.

    1. This clip -- wow. Highly questionable claims about what's doable. Absolutely imperious narcissism. The one student will "never get back an hour of his life" if he pays attention to the teacher instead of doing five things at once at breakneck speed. For a good read concerning what we appear to be doing to our brains through digital distraction, have a look at The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.

      As a teacher, I'm supposed to become nothing but a talking head on one screen among others that can be minimized at will. Though I'm not digitally manipulable, students often treat me as though I am.

      Here's an old-fashioned complaint from yours truly, Old School: How about not zoning out on devices in class simply because doing so is rude? Imagine trying to speak with an individual while the person simply stares blankly in the other direction. We'd consider such behavior rude, even autistic. I'm forced to address groups, but I still definitely consider myself to be conversing with fellow human beings. They're not avatars to me, though I might be to them.

      Where are we headed with attitudes such as the ones espoused by the students in the video? To a more "productive" society? Or to insensitive and ultimately destructive fragmentation?

    2. I use Carr's Atlantic article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" as a lead-in for "Digital Nation" (the second paper topic).

      The thing that blows my mind--consistently--is that students (and employers too) believe the lie that humans are capable of multi-tasking. We are not. The research has consistently shown that the brain toggles (rapidly) between tasks, and when the tasks are both "higher order" (meaning skill-based and not instinctive), the rapid toggling results in errors. This is why we cannot talk on the phone and watch TV--we can do one or the other, but not both at the same time. It is also why we cannot text and drive without putting ourselves and others at serious risk, because the studies show that texting while driving is actually worse than driving drunk.

      But the students buy into the idea that they can do multiple things at once, and do them well--even when they're shown the results of experiments they've *participated in* which PROVE that they cannot.

    3. Exactly. Heidegger from "The Question Concerning Technology": "Meanwhile, man, precisely as the one so threatened [by the danger of a runaway technical imperative], exalts himself to the posture of lord of the earth. In this way the illusion comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only insofar as it is his construct. This illusion gives rise in turn to one final delusion: it seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself." Digitally enslaved, narcissistic snowflakes who believe intransigently that their ways are Free and Good.

  9. Not to downplay people's health concerns (mental, physical, or otherwise), but the student who wrote this article has Written Output Disorder (WOD)? I didn't know such a thing existed. I also saw a student recently who had Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) which, according to the quick Wikipedia look-up, sounds like a disorder every teenager must have (heck, maybe academics, too!). Add to this mix the Inability to Follow Directions Disorder, the I Didn't Think Your Rules Applied to Me Disorder, and the Inability To Stop Texting Disorder, and I think I might be developing a case of Snowflake Scroogery Disorder. Sigh.

  10. I advise my students to turn off their wifi in class, and I demand that the ones with laptops sit at the back, so as not to disturb the others. I give them a little lecture at the beginning of the huge classes about respecting their fellow students; we're all here to learn stuff, so let us not make it harder for other students to do so.

  11. (having read the article) - why on earth would you want to make laptop users sit at the front where they'll distract people? I'm not going to waste my time policing what's on their screens, which in any case I can't see even if they are in the front row. Students on Facebook are wasting their time, but not mine, and if they're at the back of the class they're not disturbing anyone else. This is not my problem; it's theirs.

    However, the writer doesn't seem to grasp that whether the student is surfing the web or (as in my day) reading a newspaper instead of paying attention to the lecture, the fault is not the lecturer's. One of the things you learn to do in university is pay attention. Or should learn to do. And it takes practice.


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