Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Open letter to academia

Honored faculty:

I came to college to learn. I take classes on things I want to learn about. Thus, I do not appreciate it when you make it physically impossible for me to learn. You assign readings and papers as if yours is the only class I'm enrolled in. What purpose can it possibly serve to snow me under with an enormous workload? It only makes me rush through each assignment, looking for what I'll need to know for a paper or a test. I forget what I read as quickly as I read it. The problem is not with me: the grand majority of my waking day is spent either in class or preparing for the following day's classes. I don't drink, so don't blame it on that, and I work nearly as hard on weekends as I do during the week. I can play your game; my 3.98 GPA attests to that. I make the grades, but don't fool yourselves that you're teaching me anything. What ticking clock are you running against? Why push so hard to get through so much? I would learn so much more if you gave me the time to think about what you're having me read. You say that if you were easier on your students then none of us would do the work. Well, as it is, none of us can do the work. I don't understand what you're trying to prove here. At this point in our lives, at this institution of higher learning, I don't understand how the argument I'm still getting for why things are the way they are is that the worst students need it to be this way. Hello, there are no bad students here. There might be slacking students, but intelligence is not lacking. Why not do something truly revolutionary and give us time to actually understand a piece, to discuss it and question its assumptions? Then we might remember something about it this time next year. I'm not learning; I'm walking miles on a treadmill and getting nowhere. My parents are not paying you 40k a year so that I can hate going to class.

Much love, Laura


  1. Much of what you're learning in college is not actually facts, but simply how to process immense amounts of info in a relatively small period of time to produce excellent results so that you can move onto the next project as quickly as possible.

    You call it school.

    It sounds like a majority of my career in the IT industry.

  2. I'm just not interested in that. I want to sit down with the encyclicals I'm reading and really figure out what they're saying and what I think about them. I thought that was the point of taking a class on encyclicals. In my mind, you sign up for classes about things you want to learn about, and then you learn about them. Maybe that's a flawed assumption.

  3. Professor Johnson9:10 PM

    Your charge is duly noted.

    Now, get back to working on that paper that is due Monday so that I can give the stack of essays to my overworked and underpaid graduate assistant and I can get to the business of assigning a new paper.

    If you are put out now, wait until you realize that you have invested an entire semester of research on obscure references so that I can build a bibliography with which to write a seminal paper (based on your hard work researching) that gets published in an equally obscure journal and garners me plenty of attention-building kudos with which to line my curriculum vitae (did I say at your sweaty brow?).

    Hmmm. And you (or your parents) are paying me to do this. It's a racket. And you have a losing football program. There isn't even that consolation.

    You ask me not to fool myself into thinking you are learning. Look around campus--we are creating future donors. Don't you want a residence hall named for you? Hit the books! Produce! Produce!

  4. That Professor Johnson is psychotic. Too much wine at those wine and cheese gatherings the College of Arts and Sciences favors.

    Look at it this way. You are smart, and savvy, and in a position to absorb a great deal of material that frankly, you don't have the life experience to really savor yet. So you fill your little pot of knowledge to overflowing, where it sits around, maybe for years, maybe for a lifetime, until you find yourself in a place to take it out and really look at it, and one hopes, USE.

    No one pretends that in four years you will be magically educated. That institution will grant you a very valuable piece of paper that will open many doors for you. It's up to you to get an education in the meanwhile.

    Harsh? Maybe. Institutions of higher learning are big business hidden behind the noble facade of education. If you know the enemey, you can defeat him. I have faith that not only can you play the game (a 3.98? I bow to your skillz)but that you won't lose sight of the real tournament.

    Pick a text, any text that you read quickly and want to return to later. We'll discuss it over that cup of coffee I owe you. That's how you use this whirlwind exposure to material. That's what an education enables you to do--to while away a Saturday afternoon discussing esoteric subjects with a person that you would ordinarily not spend too much time with, because you both share a thirst for knowledge.

    If I were you, I'd suck up as much of those impossible assignments as possible. I have a 25 year head start on you [wink].

    In the meantime play the game, since you caught on. That paper is still due on Monday.


  5. No magical education in four years! We've been duped ; )

    Keep the faith and take it one day at a time, cuz that's what you've been given..and next week's paper and tomorrow exams : ) Praying for you.