15.4.17

HIGHER EDUCATION'S SELF-INFANTILIZATION.

Kurt Schlichter says Enough!
A house, a family, and a future that involves either dignity or success – these are things walking out into society with a meaningless piece of paper and nearly forty grand in debt prevent. But hey – the important thing is that we continue to subsidize one of the Democrats’ key constituencies and its prime breeding ground for the social dysfunction and soft-handed tyranny that are the hallmarks of progressivism. Too bad if it ruins the lives of the young suckers whose parents pushed them onto the conveyor belt that annually pumps out another crop of credentialed indentured servants.
And anyone who points out that we're paying twice, or perhaps three times, for high school is clearly onto something.
Let’s set aside the fact that community college exists to give everyone the opportunity to get some higher education; today, it’s job is to occupy high school students for a few extra years by intermittently teaching them the things the incompetence of unionized teachers ensured they didn’t learn in public high schools. The “free college” idea offers those of us who have already paid for our own education the opportunity to pony up for someone else’s. As the grade-inflated bastions of higher learning say to pretty much anyone who hands them a check and keeps his mouth shut about liking America, “Pass.”
Plus he's in rare form!
The quarter million dollar academic vacation model is economically unsustainable and poisonous to our culture. The world of Animal House was a lot more fun when it didn’t mean preemptive bankruptcy for its graduates and the fostering of a tyrannical training ground for future libfascists. It’s time to get all Bluto on the obsolete boil that is academia; time to give it a squeeze.
Yes, and seven years of college down the drain. It's too much for Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, formerly a youngish president of Midland University, and he's got a new book, The Vanishing American Adult, that's unsparing on the clueless snowflakes.  Ultimately, one produces adults by educating for civilization.
The parents who are aware that their children are being coddled and do not know the value of hard work are working against the prevailing culture when they try to address these issues. Sasse repeatedly notes that this book is not a plea to change public policy. It is conservative in the same way that Sasse is. It is a plan to change the culture from the bottom up instead of the top down.
It would be easier if the Zeitgeist, at least as implemented by the Democrat-Academic-Entertainment Complex, wasn't working against such parents.
He tells American parents to raise their children “as if they’ll rule someday.” Imagine yourself as Aristotle tutoring Alexander the Great or as a nanny training a future princess. “The sustenance of this free republic requires an egalitarian vision that all of us are fit to rule . . . making informed judgments about to whom ‘we the people’ delegate the daily business of governing and deciding,” he writes. “Otherwise this historically unique experiment in self-government will have run its course.” The stakes, in other words, could not be higher. And we are lucky to have someone like Ben Sasse in Washington helping to define them.
Perhaps, though, in the same way that parents can reclaim the culture one (home-schooled?) child at a time, the faculty can reclaim the curriculum, one clueless student inquiry at a time.  And the cluelessness is rampant.  I had to get this post written before the bookmark file got clogged.  Start a month ago with "Can't or Won't?"
We might provide the most detailed of written and oral instructions, but students will still find a reason, an occasion or excuse, to challenge those instructions as inadequate to their needs and (attempt to) shift the responsibility of the work from them to us.

It becomes like a game of tennis, this batting around of responsibility. We serve an assignment over the net with clear guidelines and expectations, and they either let the ball drop, claiming they somehow weren’t prepared (I didn’t know … You never told me … The assignment sheet didn’t say …) or they question whether the ball was even fair in the first place (Too long! Too hard! Hey, out of bounds!).

We then serve it again, and again, to our great fatigue, but perhaps resolve that next time we won’t bother to serve at all. Maybe next time, we think, we’ll just hand the ball to the students and thereby absolve them of actual effort. We’ll put the students in charge of the game; we’ll forfeit, give up.

Which is probably just what many of them are angling for.

Yet that is not necessarily because they lack academic ability -- although that may be true as well at the community college level -- but because they lack academic agency, it seems. They are unable or unwilling to recognize their own role in developing college skills, in earning a college education.
And perhaps continued tight budgets will focus the administrative mind on the legions of enablers and coddlers who trade under the rubric of student services.
I want to point out that at my college, and many others, there has been an institutional acknowledgment of the helplessness of students. We now have courses at my college, under the label of “student success,” that are designed to teach (and award college-level academic credit for) things such as time management and a sense of self-awareness.

While I certainly value such skills and traits, and hope that my students have them or develop them over time, the very existence of such classes lends credence to the proposition that students lack these basic elements of young adulthood when entering college.

Furthermore, my college has recently approved a proposal (brought by a student group to the Faculty Senate) that both acknowledges and legitimizes our students’ demands of having access to instructors 24/7. We instructors must now include a pledge in our course syllabi to respond to student emails within 24 hours and to return all graded work (with feedback) in seven days. It seems our campus is formally affirming the danger I spoke of earlier: the shifting of more responsibilities from students to instructors.

So what do we, as instructors, do in the helplessness culture? Do we capitulate to students, ask ever and ever less, and respond to emails and provide instructions in increasingly redundant ways? Or do we stand and fight the battle for instilling in our students the kind of accountability, autonomy and self-awareness our institutions tout? To do the former, in my opinion, only degrades academe; to do the latter risks the wrath of both students and administration.
The professor's job is to say No and uphold standards. Let the students deal with that. The faculty are the stewards of the university. Let the administration deal with that.  Perhaps Penn State's Patty Kleban (via The College Fix) is beginning to figure it out.
College is supposed to be hard. It is not a guarantee. Faculty members work hard to set up fair and objective assignments that prepare students for jobs or grad school after college. Sometimes the process of following directions or due dates or including sub-headings are part of the learning objectives.
Put that in your course outline someplace, and keep the supposedly required boilerplate that goes beyond the schedule of topics and examinations to a minimum. And hold the line on "read and understand."

And give Kurt Schlichter some assistance squeezing the infected boil that is the administration.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

With regard to the students' demand for 24/7 access to their instructors: I wish I could find the article for you, but within the past year or two, I read a piece by a professor who decreed that she would delete any and all email except in one case: if the student was writing to set up a face-to-face appointment with her. If I remember correctly, her policy has worked out well, and she expressed surprise that she didn't get in trouble for it.

The Lady of the House here at stately Quid Plura Manor is a high school teacher, and she's expected to respond to students' foolish and redundant questions via email; as a result, all union contract rules about set work times notwithstanding, she has no off hours. I suspect the students lobbying for round-the-clock access to their professors are only striving to perpetuate the very bad habits they picked up in high school with the blessing of school administrators.

Stephen Karlson said...

Yes, a graduate school contemporary of mine, now at a B1G institution, has remarked on the propensity of collegians to expect the same sort of coddling they could get away with in high school. He liked my suggestion to sometimes respond to a request with a Putinesque stare.

I set boundaries, for instance, advising students that the last electronic mail check the night before exams would be at 10 pm or so. They were pretty good about it. And there's nothing like a response of "No" to an inquiry to concentrate minds.

That no electronic mail policy I think was written up in Inside Higher Ed. Or perhaps College Misery, or whatever that sails under these days, had it.

I've been enjoying your discovery of medieval Civil War stuff. Came across the War Correspondents Arch a few years ago.

Dave Tufte said...

In 2011 I was doing an MBA finance class.

One of the students was my university's president. He was getting a degree from another (better) school, but was allowed to transfer a few credits.

I announced on day one that I would not text with students.

The only person to drop was the university president.