Sunday, May 10, 2015

Profs Who Hate Students

Everyone is passing around the NYT op-ed by Mark Bauerlein about professors not mentoring and students not engaging.  The surveys cited might have something to them, but I cannot help but read into Bauerlein's likely prejudices given he wrote “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30).” 

I have encountered many folks under 30 over the past twenty plus years of teaching, and I have been engaged plenty by sharp, inquisitive folks.  Sure, it happens much with those folks in my MA program who are choosing a life in and around international affairs, but it also happened much in my previous jobs.  At UVM, I had plenty of students who wanted to chat more about the stuff.  At TTU, a bit less so, but still the engaged students did want to carry on the conversations from class.  At McGill, I found it very hard to leave classrooms as I would always have a bunch of students who wanted to keep the conversation going. 

Maybe students are not seeking profs out as much during office hours these days.  Perhaps it is less about desire and more about time--that students who work 20 hours a week don't have time to seek out professors.  And, yes, there is more pressure to publish at places that didn't used to have any such pressures, so professors have less time as well.

I am sure things are not as wonderful as they were in the past, but I am also pretty sure the past was not as wonderful as we remember.  What I do believe is that if one calls the current generation of students "The Dumbest", that person has near zero credibility with me.  Every generation says that the next one and the one after that are lazy, dumb, whatever.  "These kids today" is a universal phenomenon, and so we need to discount our own prejudices that tend to make us feel better by insulting the folks who get to inherit our mistakes (and also the cool stuff that previous generations developed [that would be Star Wars]). 

Is my anecdata better than this guy's interpretations of the surveys and his own experiences?  Yes. Why?  Because I don't start from a standpoint of contempt.  Ok, I do, I have contempt for this guy.  Oh well.