Wednesday, December 15, 2010

College and Students

I want to take this opportunity to sum up what I have learned this fall semester, which is still in session. These points are generalizations; they don't pertain to every student. .

1. Most of my students are really good people, who just want a chance to make a living.
2. Colleges may be under the non-profit by-line, but higher education is all about the benjamins.
3. Some textbooks cost $200. No, these are not law books, but textbooks for general education courses. The students are lucky if they can sell them back for $20. Each year there is a new edition, so the students have no choice but to buy their textbooks new--each book becomes obsolete after the school year ends.

4. Students now are able to rent books for the semester. It's a bit cheaper than buying the book.
5. Students are generally passive and bored. It isn't personal; they have been beaten down into submission by a society that doesn't give a damn.
6. But wait! Who creates society? People. So people don't give a damn. This has a snowball effect. The new work force is learning obedience through general apathy.
7. I teach books that show great historical figures: students are especially impressed by Dr. King. Yet we have no such leaders right now. Why is that?
8. I teach about epic heroes like Achilles and Gilgamesh. Students have been trained to think that sports figures are heroes. They need to develop a healthy relationship to heroism because they rarely see it among individuals. This means they cannot recognize excellence in another human being.
9. Many of my students belong to fraternities or sororities. They do this for networking in the job market. But they also join because they don't know how to make friends. So they inherit them.
10. If parents knew how much alcohol is consumed by their dear sons and daughters, they would be...surprised.. Other kids drink, not their child. Sorry--your child came drunk to my class. He came drunk to my office hours. Your little girl doesn't even like beer, but she drinks it in order to attract certain male companionship.

 11. It is not uncommon for a male and female to begin making out once they have noticed each other at a party. Often, they don't know each other's name. Yet they think nothing of exchanging bodily fluids with a stranger. Alcohol is a big culprit in these situations. This is called hooking up.
12. We are turning our college students into alcoholics..

13. Many students suffer from depression and anxiety disorders.Many consider suicide as a realistic option. 
14.  College students may have a thousand friends on Facebook, but they are among the loneliest people I have ever known. They wish they could get to know their classmates, but they have to listen to boring lectures and take notes. The classroom has become a place of alienation, not community.
15. Many think a romantic relationship will solve all of their problems.
16. Many students don't understand love, because they have been encouraged to focus on their needs, not the needs of others.
17. Texting is ruining writing skills. I get papers with u for you, b/c for because, and IDK for I don't know. Intellectually, they know this is incorrect, but writing papers has become another form of texting.

18. Many students have either been raped, molested, or exposed to sexually inappropriate situations at a young age. This transcends race, social and economic status.
19. Students know instinctively that this is not how life should be. But they don't know what to do.
20. I pray for my students every time I go to class. I worry about them. I really do.


  1. This was a GOOD one! dead on with everything!

  2. Wow, Susan, this is a great description of university life.

  3. Guys,
    I just realized I contradicted myself with my earlier post that praised the almighty Cliff Lee. He's heroic to me because he seems yogic to me; he epitomizes the Taoist path of action and non-action. He flows like water. I've been watching baseball all my life and I've never seen anyone pitch like him. Only Michael Jordan came close to that sense of BE-ing, but even at his best, he was Michael Jordan. Cliff Lee became pitching itself, at its most excellent form.

  4. Dear God let your spirit surround your sons and daughters in Susan's classrooms and buoy her up amidst the darkness.

  5. this reminds me of the movie 'Coach Carter'.
    Seems like you are working on the same lines...Good Luck!!

  6. Hari--Who's Coach Carter? I've been teaching my entire adult life, from adjuncting composition classes to literature to public schools and now in a gen ed program. I'm definitely not making excuses for students, as they deem themselves adults, so as far as I'm concerned, they have to measure up to that title. At the same time, I understand why that is so hard for many, and I hope to understand more as I continue. It helps me do my job. Thanks for the good wishes.

    GW: The internet has brought "cheating" to a whole new level. Students will post copies of past exams to FB. They will copy an exam and give it to their friends. So professors need to change their exam every semester. If they teach the same class 2 or 3 times in the semester, they have to give different tests per class or mix them up--I've done both. Then there is plagiarism, which has become big business. We have workshops on how to deal with academic dishonesty. It is a huge problem.

    Lux: Thanks so much.

    Anon: A lot of this comes from what students tell me.

    Tinkerbell: College is really different now. I remember having to work full time and go to school; I share that with the students. But so much of the other stuff is beyond me. When I heard that textbooks cost 200 dollars for 1 book, I was beyond shocked.

  7. check this out-

    Exceptional movie. He is more a father than a coach.

    Would suggest you watch this brings tears in your eyes...

  8. I work for a non-profit college. It is all about the benjamins. I can't tell you how often we see students who can't string a sentence together, don't know how to use a computer (we have a large on-line program), or know what is remotely expected of higher education. Yet here we are taking their money (or the government's as the case may be). So many come in for help and are only looking to cash their financial aid check with no real intention of going to class, much less graduating.

    I also remember college and how depressing it was. For three years I isolated myself from almost everyone. Thankfully my "way out" was study abroad. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

  9. (1) I would gather most people are good people simply looking to lead a fulfilling life.

    (2) Colleges are mostly looking for external sources of money: endowments, research grants (especially by deep-pocketed corporations), and such. I taught in a department that was very corporate-critical, and that hurt our ability to draw a lot of private monies that the university really wanted. Despite the fact that we were the largest department in terms of majors, we had the smallest staff of full-time faculty, and thus the first to fall under the budget axe.

    (3) I once assigned a textbook that cost $150 back in the 1990s. It wasn't that good, but it was required by the department. I always regretted doing it, but what could I do?

    (6) More to the point, I think student apathy comes from the feeling (fostered by our cynical culture) that no matter what they do they cannot change anything. Of course, that's a false belief, and part of teaching is overcoming that sense of helplessness.

    (7) In some respects, the leadership of Dr. King is a construct of the present day. During his life, he faced a lot of criticism for not truly being a leader of the black or leftist community by ultraconservatives and by many competing black leaders.

    (10) I can't believe that parents would be shocked to know the amount of drug and alcohol abuse went on in college, since most of them probably went to college. They would have to have forgotten quite a bit since senior year.

    (13) I attended one school that was suicide central (eight deaths during my five semesters there). For some reason, many students are in this "permanent record" kind of mode, where no mistakes are tolerated, or expected superiority is no longer evident.

    (14) One would hope that students would experience a range of instruction methods--from lecture halls to seminars. I taught one lecture hall course, but in it the students would break into smaller groups, each having a separate instructor. While economically this might be more difficult than in the past, it's a model that works, for combines the best of everything--intense information with student interaction.

    It's also true that college can be a factor in alienation, especially for those who live on campus. They're away from all their childhood friends and cliques, and have to make new relationships with a broader range of people. Many of their old notions will be challenged, and that can have the effect that one is lonely, or alone.

    (15) One need only go through one to view romantic relationships as the cause of all problems:-)

    (17) It would be interesting to read a stylebook from thirty years into the future. IDK, but it could be the case, IMHO, that the texting style u d-cry will be accepted as formal (LMAO).

    (18) Rape was a persistent problem at suicide central. It was compounded by the fact that many of the suspects were the sons of very wealthy and powerful people who viewed the instances not so much as crimes but as indiscretions.

    (20) I'm sure that you root for them as well.

  10. Parents are often blind to what their own kids are doing. Some kids are slick: they get the grades and the parents think everything is fine. They may think that binge drinking is a normal part of college. I don't know how many fathers would like to know that their daughters have nameless encounter sex with guys at these parties. But who knows? I understand what you mean about the textbooks: I had to order anthologies when I taught literature, but the cost wasn't outrageous.

    Some people see this generation as the most coddled ever. I hear that from professors to parents to casual observers. I agree that there is a sense of entitlement that comes from a certain sector of the college population: the "I paid for the course so where is my A" or "I came here everyday; I deserve a B" (said student turned in no work, never participated and didn't bother to buy the book"--it goes on. But that tends to be more dramatic when the line between the professor and the student is already hostile. I still get some of that stuff, but now I have them evaluate their own participation and everyday habits (did you bring the book to every class--did you keep up with the reading?) Students are generally honest, because they realize that I already know the answer, but it also means they take a stake in their own grade.

    I got very good work from the majority of my students for their final projects, and I'm now thinking that it all will work itself out.

  11. my son is a sophomore in college. i'm sure he is doing all the things i did in college....

    oddly, while reading this it brought back my college years. and those were decades ago ..
    technology has changed the college experience, but some things have stayed the same.

    i recently learned the term friends with benefits.
    apparently that's the way many of them 'do it' now..
    dn't ask me why i know this.

  12. Susan sorry it has been so long but I have tried a number of times and keep NOT getting here and winding up somewhere that I am pretty sure is not this place.

    Everything you wrote about in your students I see in them after class. I hang out with them listen to them talk with them not about their classes but about their lives.

    There is a grand amount of narcissism and entitlement that they have but underlying that is a general feeling of insecurity about how will they be able to use a degree when they see an at best ambivalent society towards them, parents included.

    If you try to impress upon them that they are inheriting a truly fucked up world, one that is going to be entering the violent death throes they seem to think that it can't happen because they are insulated by dollars.

    They have no clue of the macro economic situation of what is going on. Most have no sense of any history beyond ten years after they were born. How many of your students actually know who the Mahatma was or ML King before you tell them.

    I don't thinkk they are content with themselves and have huge issues of expectations that we laid on them.

    "Don't worry kid, we can fuck up everything but we'll ensure you have the education to fix it, or you'll just wind up another dumbass flipping burgers."

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. I have hope in the students of today but not the same hope I had for my own kids who are all near or graduated and working, not in fields I would do but in ones they like.

    I guess in the end because I never really went to any college or university I have hope because to not have any hope that them we raised will fix their moral compass or not only the societies of the planet but the planet itself will perish. That I am not willing to contemplate publicly. So continue to pray as you will and encourage as you do and push them as you must. for it is not about a GPA but understanding the information presented and building on it.

    Be Well


  13. Hi Susan,

    Looks like I didn't miss much, not going to college. The blue collar route can be just as depressing, but my path has "delicately and ceaselessly amused me."


  14. Dave: It depends on where and when. I loved college, but I got sick of it. I just don't remember feeling ripped off, plus I chose a profession with no jobs, so I did it for myself and still landed gigs. It has changed so much. If students just want a job, they should join the military where they get training and a real "life" experience. Then they have the choice of going to college that is paid for, providing they don't die, of course.

    Mark: There is another blog on blogspot called BeWaRe of DaRkness or something like that. The author is from Malaysia. I actually had a feed for his blood. So maybe that is where you are going.
    You are correct about the entitlement and the disillusionment. I'm doing grades right now and I expect a few "What did I get..."? Geez, if it were up to me, they would get all As because I don't give a flying fuck about grades--it's about learning. I have to draw the line when people don't do the work or do a really shoddy job because they don't care. That is really it in the grading dept--I would rather give them a decent grade because they are going to get screwed over sooner or later by someone else. Some students make it hard: I think of that movie Dangerous Minds in which Michelle Phifer said: You all got an A. Now keep it. That is how it should be if we have to deal with this stupid system of assessment that causes more problems than it is worth.

    Foam: I've heard that one too--friends with benefits. What does that mean? Networking?

  15. BeWaRe of DaRkness Yep that is the one. The only way I get here is through your comments on another blog which is why I de-linked you until I figure another way.

    When it comes to the kids I am much more fortunate than you because I get to see them at their unguarded best. i get to be able to assess for myself each ones strengths and weaknesses without having to use a formalized system.

    But without you and people like you they would never get the seed planted that there is more than Hot Topic and the next tattoo or nickel bag.

  16. this is just so one granddaughter is 21 and her free time is 'getting drunk with my homies or her niggas..I said your a white Irish kid that has known no other life but white Baptist Waco, why are you talking ghetto and if I hear you say nigga one more time your going to have a concussion..sigh*

  17. I never had a drink or smoke during college. I was friendless, depressed and yeah had a few sucidal thoughts. I was uncomfortable in my own skin and I guess wantign to be someone else is a form of sucidal thought too.

    Things have improved after I stared working, grew up, made some good friends and learned to drink.
    I still don't smoke.

  18. Don't ever smoke, SJ. I did and quit years ago--haven't touched one in 20 years. But even now, I sometimes crave it.


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