Wednesday, August 31, 2011

11 Approaches to College Life

Reading this list of how to capitalize best on your Freshman year made me think CM would blow it up.

1. Only work hard enough to get a 3.0
2. Talk to as many people as possible in the first week
3. Instead of taking a bunch of liberal arts, double-major in something practical
4. Remember there's life outside of the floor of your dorm
5. This is not the time to launch a new nickname
6. Don't do laundry on the weekend
7. Only play social video games
8. Set everything on facebook to private immediately
9. Strategies to fight the Freshman 15 (or 30)
10. Don't join too many extracurricular activities
11. Never take a class that starts before 10 and avoid all classes that have a discussion section

Basically, this reads like a "ways to waste your education" list to me. Sure, avoid liberal arts. But avoid discussion? What about critical thinking? What about actually learning this material? What about practical skills emphasized during discussion? Why shoot for a B but take something "practical"?

I don't know, maybe this is my own knee-jerk reaction. Do you agree with anything on this list? Do you want to throttle anyone who follows this advice?

Finally, if you wrote a list of advice to in-coming freshmen, what would it include?

Original Article, with in-depth explanations for each piece of advice.


  1. I agree with a few of them--there IS life outside their dorm; they definitely shouldn't spread themselves too thin by joining too many things; the freshman 15 is insidious and tips on staying healthy would be good; setting everything on FB to private is something I think not enough people do. A lot of the rest of it is, of course, BS.

  2. Wow, I never thought I'd see the day when Liberal Arts is equated with critical thinking.

  3. Talk to as many people as possible in the first week. It astounds me how quiet my classroom is at the beginning of the semester, before class starts. No one knows each other and they make no attempt to introduce themselves to each other. Everyone is listening to IPods or texting and not interacting. I agree, meet as many people as possible that first week.

  4. EMH, is it entirely necessary to insult entire fields of inquiry? Or was this just sarcasm that doesn't translate onscreen?

  5. Here's a few substitutes for #1, 3, 5 and 11:

    College is a good time to start pretending to be an adult.

    Don't let these be the best years of your life. That would mean that the next 60 years are downhill. That would suck.

    Use this secret formula for getting up for an 8 am class: go to bed before 2 am, you fucking moron.

    Don't talk about all the cool stuff you did in high school. Everybody did the same things. You're not impressing anybody now.

  6. Frog and Toad: read EMH again. He didn't insult entire fields of inquiry. He merely said that they were not synonymous with "critical thinking".

    And they're not. Some subjects and classes have healthy servings of it. Some have only a little. Regardless, the implication that "Liberal Arts" is the only way to get "critical thinking" is a little narrow.

  7. I can't totally disagree with any of the advice.

    1. I have so many students who just won't earn an A no matter how hard they try. I wish some of them would accept this and focus on things they might actually excel at. Besides if they all think that they are A students, then we've got more trouble.

    2. Learning to network is vital out there in the business world. You might as well cut your teeth in college.

    3. Major in whatever you want to major in. But it's a good idea to take *some* "practical" coursework as it will broaden your horizons and might help you land a job. For the record, I tell my advisees to take some non-science courses for the same reasons.

    4. Duh.

    5. Fair enough if you are wanting to debut "T-bone" or "Bendover". But trading "Thomas" or "Tom" can be a good thing. I traded "Mathematics" for "Math" and have no regrets.

    6. Totally do laundry on the when the machines aren't full. I always found Tuesday to be a good day.

    7. If you are going to be a gamer, you shouldn't be doing it in a vacuum. Play with friends. That way you still have some.

    8. Everyone should set their FB status to private and then heavily sensor what they put up.

    9. Everyone should learn how to lead a more heathful life. The earlier you start the better off you will be.

    10. Don't over commit. Afterall, you are at college to take courses. Seek balance.

    11. Even as an adult I still have trouble getting up early. Even if I get 8 hours sleep I still feel sick when I rise before 7:30 or 8. That's just the way my body works. If you are like that, then you aren't getting the most of your education by signing up for an 8AM class.

  8. EMH and DrN, the whole justification of learning liberal arts is critical thinking. You have a skill (painting, reading, writing, musicking) and you use it think critically about society. It's the whole point. So either EMH was making a joke or relying on the whole maths v humanities thing.

  9. But who was implying that? AM said "Sure, avoid liberal arts. But avoid discussion? What about critical thinking?" I took that to mean that you can get critical thinking without the liberal arts.

    I will admit that EMH often makes no sense to me. I leave him to more nimble minds.

  10. Well, if EMH was serious, it was a self-directed insult. After all, Mathematics is one of the Liberal Arts.

    But let's not let facts and details get in the way of a good old fashioned insult.

  11. So when they 'shoot for a C," that means they're really doing F work, right? Because I hear all the time that they worked hard enough for an A, but it's really C work.

    I don't even know why someone would advise anyone to play video games in college. Total. waste. of. time.

    I'm glad I had better advice than this in college.

  12. Sorry guys, but perhaps things are better from where you sit, by my experience with liberal arts students has been that they are a bit, um, dim (for lack of a more tactful adjective). My intent was to insult our snowflakes, not the program. I can only imagine how full your hands are with dealing with students who get to take the easiest courses because they can't read. This has been my perception of Liberal Arts programs thus far. Somebody please show me how I am wrong so that I can re-establish faith in our society.

    Perhaps there is a difference between Liberal Arts and Liberal Studies and I didn't see it? When I was a graduate student, I worked in our math lab. The Liberal Studies majors/ future elementary school teachers had their own special corner of the math lab. They were notorious for not being able to follow directions, and it often made me wonder wtf was going on. They often got special treatment in our department because they tended to seriously lack critical thinking skills (like reading). Perhaps the Liberal Arts program I saw was a gross mockery? I don't know.

    @Archie: Mathematics is a Liberal Art? Well, I'll admit that my alma-mater required the liberal arts majors to take some kind of basic math, but that was about it.

    But something seems afoot at the Circle K if you have yet to face the wrath of a liberal arts student (and I mean specifically liberal arts majors). I am not making an umbrella statement about english/math/history/etc. majors. The future elementary school teachers/ liberal arts majors would often have emotional breakdowns whenever they were asked to add fractions. Again, I was left wondering wtf was going on.

    If your Liberal Studies/Arts majors are able to engage in critical discussions, then please send them my way as I continue to face a dry-spell.

  13. I've seen these lists o' roolz on the intertubez; all of them suck. My main rule for Freshmen is one from "Apocalypse Now":

    Never get off the boat unless you are willing to go ALL the way.

  14. EMH:
    @Archie: Mathematics is a Liberal Art? Well, I'll admit that my alma-mater required the liberal arts majors to take some kind of basic math, but that was about it.

    In medieval universities, the liberal arts were subdivided into two categories: the trivium first (grammar, rhetoric, and logic), and then the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy).

    I know this because I spent a few not entirely wasted years as a Classics major before realizing that I didn't want to do a doctorate in it, and there was little chance of me becoming secretary to the Pope.

  15. @Nullifidian:

    Now bring it on home Hoss. From the traditional trivium and quadrivium you get the modern liberal arts curriculum, which includes Literature, History, and Philosophy (the descendants of the old trivium) and Mathematics, Music, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry and Biology (the descendants of the old quadrivium) . And if you want to get really technical, all of them are former branches of philosophy, which is the easiest way to distinguish a Liberal Art from the other disciplines.

    Anyways, for political reasons in the postwar period, the descendants of the quadrivium, with the exception of mathematics (most mathematics departments still award the B.A.), stopped self-identifying as liberal arts and started calling their degrees the B.S. But this is mostly a semantic distinction, because in terms of the way in which college and university curricula are organized, they remain part of the core liberal arts in every way that matters.

    What's not a liberal art? Glad someone asked.

    All them thar new-fangled nineteenth and twentieth-century quasi-scientific disciplines that we now call the social sciences: Sociology, Poli Sci, Anthro, Econ, Communications and so forth, plus all the "practical" disciplines like engineering, ed, business and whatnot. Presumably even more newfangled things like area studies are not really liberal arts either, or at least they are hors de categorie, so to speak.

    Anyway, EMH is conflating Liberal Studies (a newfanglish non-disciplinary major in I've-never-quite-understood-what) with the Liberal Arts (of which mathematics is one). It makes sense only insofar as they both have the word "Liberal" in them, but pointing that out seems churlish, or perhaps vaguely impugns EMH's language and critical thinking skills, so let's not go there.

    Anyway, looking at the calendar it must be time for our next iteration of the CM science wars. Whatevah, as the kiddies say.

  16. @ Archie

    "It makes sense only insofar as they both have the word "Liberal" in them, but pointing that out seems churlish, or perhaps vaguely impugns EMH's language and critical thinking skills, so let's not go there."

    Have a drink on me.

  17. I wouldn't get too worked up over the list. It's not in the Chronicle, USA Today or on CNN. And the author isn't putting him/herself forward as an expert. It's just someone with an interblog.

    I'd boil a lot of them down into Stay healthy, get out of your dorm room and interact with others. A few I'd dispute/modify:

    #1 Get the best marks you can, but don't obsess over them. And certainly don't slit your wrists (or stalk the prof) because you didn't get an A+

    #3 While I hate the 'do something practical' approach to education, I could maybe see rewording this one to "Have some idea why you're in university and what you want to study. Don't spend four years going into debt without at least some kind of goal or plan."

    #11 OK, this one is flaky. But even then, I sort of get the idea of enjoying the relaxed freedom of being a student before it's gone. I know a lot of people who really miss being able to get up and pull on a pair of jeans instead of 'business attire'. And I do remember some pretty egregious discussion sections that made me want to claw my eyes out. On the other hand, it was a really great discussion section that shaped my academic career. Go figure.

  18. O how I heart Archie. I'm buying his second drink.

  19. Something EMH said reminded me of a class I once took. We had a guest speaker who was amazing. Two students next to me were flapping their mouths and paying no attention, and making it difficult for several of us to hear. People gave dirty looks, shushed them, nothing worked. I finally had it. I leaned over and said, very quietly but with, um, feeling, "would. you. please. shut. the. fuck. up."

    They looked at me in shock, and one burst into tears and left the class.

    The next day I was called into the director's office. Little Miss Yapmouth was there. The director said that LMY was filing a complaint against me. Oh really? Yes. It seems that I had "disrespected her individual learning style."

    I looked at LMY and said "You were flapping your mouth. That isn't a learning style,"

    She said "oh yes it is. I'm a Verbal Processor, and I have to talk in order to understand things,"

    She was an Elementary Ed major.

    Disclaimer: I have friends who majored in EE who are not idiots and I'm in no way implying that the above incident is indicative of ALL EE majors. Your results may vary.

  20. Fuck, the angst of ed majors. I was one, once. For half a semester. I wanted to teach high school. But the sheer lunacy of my classmates helped me make the time-honored decision to go to grad school instead.

    Hm. Maybe they rubbed off on me? Eesh.

    EMH, calm down a bit, you're missing social cues. Beaker Ben, I love your additions to this list. Archie, I just love you and hope that one day I'll stumble upon you at a conference and buy you, say, the third drink of this thread?

  21. I live in a state where people who want to be teachers (even -- perhaps especially -- early childhood/kindergarten teachers) have to get a degree in a real subject (either one of the Liberal Arts, as Archie has described them, or one of the late 19th/early 20th C social sciences, or some interdisciplinary combination of the above. I'm not sure whether one can major in Business or Engineering -- probably so, at least for teaching on the high school level, and I'd imagine that each would go over quite well for certain schools). The other courses required for certification, including some practicums, take them halfway to the Masters, which many of them finish (in fact, I believe we've got a 5-year B.A/B.S + M.A. program). It seems to work; at least the aspiring teachers I've had in my classes haven't stood out as a group. I thought that was a nationwide trend (one of the few good ones in K-12 education, I'd say), but maybe I'm wrong.

    I like CMP's and R and/or G's additions and variations to the list. With a bit of revision by the CM community, it actually might turn into a list of worthwhile advice.

    @EMH: most schools do, indeed, have a sort of catch-all major for people who are (a) very indecisive, and/or (b) very clueless, and/or (c) very mobile, usually because their own or a family member's military service or other work situation has led to frequent transfers, but sometimes for other reasons, such as repeatedly flunking out, and/or (d) genuinely brilliant in the manner of the traditional Renaissance Man (or Woman), who would master all of the Liberal Arts, and usually some more performance/production-based ones as well (painting, sculpture, creative writing, etc.). These majors usually have names that end in "Studies" and begin with or incorporate at least one of the following: "Liberal," "General," "Independent" or "Interdisciplinary." These programs nearly always harbor both some of the most brilliant and some of the least brilliant students on campus, as well as a fair number of solid middle-of-the-road, often middle-aged, students who just want to finish their degrees. The exact proportions vary according to a variety of factors, including the selectivity of the school, proximity to military bases, etc.

    @Annie: I just heard (again) on NPR that the "learning styles" theory has been discredited (or not proven). But, given the fact that there are whole industries based on it, I'm not sure that anybody with a vested interest is going to accept that anytime soon.

    I, too, love Archie, and would offer to buy him yet another drink, but it sounds like he's had enough for one day, at least so early in the semester.

  22. There's such a thing as too many drinks?

  23. "There's such a thing as too many drinks?"

    When people are urinating in your dorm shower, HELLS YES.


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