“College is bogus!”
My niece stated emphatically as we got in her car for a day trip. I buckled in and braced myself for what I anticipated would be a barrage of typical college-angst complaints, such as “Classes are too hard”, and “I just can’t wait to be done so I can get on with my life.”
She turned over the engine and handed me her Ipod so I could choose the tunes.
“First of all,” she said, “you spend $150 on one book.”
“Uh-huh.” I started going through her playlist.
“Then you read the chapter and go to class; a class that costs another $400 to $500, like my Economics class. Your instructor basically goes through a power point from the book on what you just read.”
We took the exit onto the highway, and my ears pricked up a little as I listened.
“I wish he would give us an assignment or something IN CLASS to help us understand exactly what we are supposed to be really learning.”
I put the Ipod down and looked at her.
“Why are we paying our professors money just to spit back what we already read from the expensive book we bought? I mean, I can memorize everything and take a test, but in two or three weeks I won’t really remember. This class is important for my major, and when I go out into the world, I want to really understand this stuff.”
Wow. My niece has always been an intelligent student, and did well in school, but her obvious desire to really learn impressed me. I imagine she was looking for case studies. Don’t most teachers live for students like this who want to really learn and understand, not just memorize something for a grade? I said as much to her, and encouraged her to go to her professor and explain how she was feeling.
“Surely your instructor would be thrilled to have a student like you in his class?”
Shaking her head with a wry grin on her face she said, “No, he would just say, ‘this is college now; it’s time to figure this out on your own. Go on line.’“ The look on my face prompted her to add “Really, that’s the apparent attitude. It sucks, ‘cause you pay all this money and go into debt, apparently just so you can say you went to college.“
I knew I was getting a one-sided story, but I was appalled at what I was hearing. College-age students, who are no longer under the thumb of “necessity”, do have opportunity to shoulder more responsibility for learning and motivation to go to class and complete assignments; but that doesn’t relieve professors of their responsibility to actually teach rather than just spit information from a book.
“Have you ever tried talking to your instructor about this?” She shook her head. “I think you should go to him in a very diplomatic way, and share this with him. At the very least, he would know you are serious about learning and he could give you something to work on that would help you.”
She may not change the way her professor teaches the class, but she would be getting the most out of her education.
Then she said with sincere conviction, “This makes me want to go to my high school teachers and thank them; they gave us assignments that inspired us to really learn. Shouldn’t college professors, who we are paying all this money to, have to do the same?”
No, I haven’t spoken to her instructor to get his side of things, but I know there is truth to what she says. Our students really deserve better than this. I realize not every instructor is the same; there are lazy ones, and there are good ones.
One of my own experiences came to mind; in my college Psychology class, I remember one of the weekly quizzes we took. I sat looking at the questions thinking,
“Are you kidding me? This isn’t what I studied in the book.”
Everybody must have had the same expression on their face, because the teacher smiled and said, “This may not be the test you were expecting, but I want to know what you really understand about this. I want to know what you learned, not what you memorized.”