Saturday, April 13, 2013

Another Sign We Are Doomed from Academic Charlotte Anne

Two days this week I walked back from class and noticed in the seating area along the hallway (where students hang out between classes to read and study) that a student had brought in an old-school TV set and hooked up a video game system and he and several others were playing video games. To make matters worse, there were at least ten other people standing behind the players watching.

I know the snowflakes play video games. But is is not enough that they play video games at home, on the computers in the lab, on their phones and tablets? Do they really need to bring a TV set to school and play more video games??? And I have the audacity to wonder why they do so poorly on their exams.


  1. My campus has a big flat screen tv in an area called the Commons (food service and bookstore are there, as well as the library). Attached to that tv is a group of students who bring their systems. They have even formed a club and host tournaments near exams so that students can "relax a little". I have to say that anecdotally, they don't do well academically, probably because relaxing and studying are at cross-purposes. One of them took 3 tries to get through my course, not because he was dim, but because he didn't do the work because he was either playing video games or screwing around in the campus theater.

    So yes, ACA, I am with you on this one.

    1. I am on a commuter campus (no dorms) so this may account for some of the reason they game on campus.

    2. During my Ph. D. residency, I was a TA for a course that had a student like yours. Instead of computer games, however, his passion was The Assassination Game, or whatever it was called. Players were assigned "targets", who happened to be fellow players, and then proceeded to "eliminate" them.

      One day, I saw this kid sitting at a table near a major student thoroughfare trying to sign up people for the game. If he'd spent half the effort on his course work as he did on that activity, he might have amounted to something.

  2. I managed to play computer games in college (although, granted, they weren't what they are now). I also belonged to a fraternity, a religious organization, and the literary magazine, as well as a few "unofficial" clubs that weren't exactly approved of by the dean.

    And yet, I studied, got As, and became a professor.

    I still play computer games, have a religion that I practice regularly, have several detailed and complex hobbies that consume a lot of free time, and an active home and social life, not to mention sitting on some boards and doing some charity work.

    And yet, I get papers back within a week of submission, plan all my classes, keep abreast of my field, do my research, and fulfill my service obligations.

    All of this shit: all of the "I was playing computer games" or "I am lazy" or "My mom needed me" or "I was in Hawaii helping the poor people drink their fruity beach drinks." All of it is just excuses.

    Everyone has a life. Everyone makes some things priorities. If I don't spend a weekend watching birds or playing on my computer, so be it. Some weekends you get some time for fun, some you don't.

    It's really not the computer games' fault, is my point. It's that they don't know how to delay gratification and set priorities. That's one of the most valuable things we can teach them, I sometimes think, right up there with critical thinking.

    1. I agree. I was a student-athlete, wrote for the college newspaper, and had an active social life yet managed to graduate with honors and two majors.

      Perhaps it's the gamer-as-slacker connection? I was invited to play D&D but could see that it took up way too much time (and two of the three other guys dropped out after their first year). Dunno. Perhaps it's their visibility on campus: We can see them spending their limited time in ways *we* find unproductive?

    2. Exactly. I play D&D and balanced it adequately against my studies. I had friends who did not.

      I had colleagues who played video games and did fine, and colleagues who played video games who did not.

      I had colleagues who were really into playing guitar, baseball, baking, chess, Scrabble, and Texas Hold 'Em. Some of them did fine, some did not.

      Before people were saying "video gamers do poorly on their studies" they were saying "D&D players do poorly on their studies." Before that it was blaming music, hula-hooping, stickball, and, I don't know, jazz or jitterbugging or something.

      It's always exasperating when smart people insist on confusing the symptom with the cause. There will always be people for whom the distractions are too distracting, just as there will always be people who can maintain a balance between work and play. And the distractions are always changing - looking down your nose at distractions that don't speak to you, especially because they are "newfangled," is a way of preserving cultural capital.

      In other words, Ice-T had it wrong: don't hate the game - hate the player.

    3. Typically, the attitude I got from my students on this matter was that whatever activities they engaged in, it was part of their "experience" and, therefore, participation was essential. I remember one twerp who couldn't have his assignment finished on a certain day because he "had to play" soccer.

      I often wondered what sort of employees they turned out to be, provided anybody bothered to hire them.

    4. Well, when I was in undergrad and working security, I replaced one guy who brought his Playstation to the job and hooked it up TO THE SECURITY MONITOR so he could play video games at work.

      So, I guess, THAT kind of employee.

  3. But that old TV is so retro-cool! How could you possibly complain?

    As others have pointed out, one of the things students learn (or don't) in college is to manage their own time, including various recreational temptations (both those that take up inordinate amounts of time, and those that have a tendency to at least temporarily inhibit cognition). Some students learn more quickly than others; some never learn.

    It's sort of like blaming CM for my slowness/lack of focus while grading papers. I'm pretty sure if CM weren't here -- or the internet hadn't yet been invented -- I'd still manage to be slow and distracted. In fact, I know it, since I've been grading papers since before the WWW existed (which dates me, I know. Really, kids, it wasn't *that* long ago!). The same goes for writing (at least when I'm frustrated/overwhelmed by the task; actually, that goes better these days). When I was writing my dissertation, I canceled my subscription to all but the Sunday paper in order to cut down on distractions, then found myself reading catalogs, any non-diss related book in the apartment, cereal boxes, etc., etc. with great concentration instead.

    1. That sounds like me. I can get distracted from grading by looking at a blank wall.

      When we were writing our theses, every woman in my program procrastinated -- wait, I mean relaxed -- by doing some huge creative project: quilts, sweaters, wildly painted furniture, yard structures for their kids. Maybe the men did too, but the only tension-release activity I heard about was their Porn-Fests.

    2. me, too! Blank walls are very distracting...

    3. One year the director of grad studies was so disappointed in how distracted we supposedly were that she sent us an op ed by a prof who wasted at least one full year of diss research time learning how to can. The DGS's lesson backfired, though, since the conclusion of the story was that the guy eventually finished and got a great job.

    4. And now he knows how to can! Bonus!

  4. I spent many hours and days of my frosh year watching other people play Tetris or Wing Commander. I have fond memories of those times.

  5. Old-school TV? Awesome! Next summer you can all watch the World Cup.

    I never cared much for video games, but two of my grad school friends (both now profs) spent hours playing in the bar in the basement of the Grad College, so I joined them, and became pretty good at Space Invaders. (I understand games have changed a bit since then.) My adviser had D&D evenings with his other students (he was the Dungeon Master), but I didn't join them.

    And yes Cassandra, without CM and a glass of wine this Sunday evening homework grading would be intolerable.


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