Friday, June 17, 2016

Middle Aged and Morose On More Time.

I wanted to expand on Contingent Cassandra's great comment in ELS's "Big Thirsty" (Thanks for the great question and for the thoughtful answer). As Contingent Cassandra noted, what we need more of to make a great university is more TIME.

I could use more, that journal article isn't writing itself dagnabit, but it's my students I worry about. As an undergrad back in the 70s my SLAC went from three classes to four a semester. We thought that was a heavy load and my did we whine about it!  My students take five, six, sometimes seven classes at a time! Why? Because school is so damn expensive and because to graduate in four years they have to take five classes a semester. In addition, if they can take summer classes and an overload they can finish in three years and maybe they'll be able to get out of student debt before they retire. Cripes, no wonder they think reading a ten page article is torture, or that reviewing their notes after class is an idealistic fantasy. Add in how many of them work to make money to pay for school and I'm lucky if they think about my class during class, let alone the rest of the day. 

I sure didn't sit around mulling over my classes 24/7 when I was an undergrad. I thought about other important things as well: girls, my frat (In Hoc Signo Vinces baby!), girls, that SciFi novel I was reading this week, girls, etc.  But I did review my notes, and I did do the readings (I have my marked up copies of the Federalist and the Malleus Maleficarum to prove it still!) and I did try to think about what I learned in class.  I wish my students now could do the same.  So few people continue to read and think about what they read after college. As a society we suffer for it. How many fewer will do so if they never learned how to in college??


  1. Not to go on a rant, but....

    I think we're an aliterate society. Could be literate, but most of us say, "Ah.....the heck with it." We don't seem to push empathy, either (beyond the "don't bully others" mantra); we seem to push the "you can't understand me because you're ___________" philosophy. And since empathy is key to learning many disciplines....particularly ones that involve heavy doses of reading.....well, it's not looking good.

    Someone on this website once used the phrase "uptick to luxury." (That is, I think that was the phrase.) I thought this was brilliant. Today, we all either want to be rich 'n famous or we seem to pretend we are. If you're rich 'n famous, you hire others to do unpleasant work for you. It amazes me how many folks living check-to-check hire people to mow their lawns. So many Americans, at least, want to live like famous athletes or actors who have teams working for them. "This is gonna be hard work," I tell--warn--students on the first day of class and every day thereafter. (Of course, I never finished my Ph.D., but that's due to unrelated shortcomings on my part.)

    That said, these are off-the-cuff observations, and change is always difficult.

  2. Stupid idea:

    Sell undergradate education as a fixed-fee. On entry, pay your $x0,000 up front. You are now allowed to take classes until you graduate, 4 years, or reach some number of credits... whichever is LONGER.

    Of course, this lets us horribly burn the students that flunk out after one year.... Evil? Sure.

    But it might mean more time. Less overloading, less full-load-plus-part-time-job.