Bad deal

I once found on the internet an interesting application. It was a site where college students could rate their college professors. Although I have not been in college for a while, I visited the site. I was dumbfounded to find that some of the lecturers I had a long while ago are still around, and given student’s comments, still display the same flaws as a couple of decades ago.

I was lucky enough to have some teachers that had inspired me. Unfortunately, these educators were not my college professors, rather grammar to high school teachers. In fact, out of the 50 odd professors I had during my stint in college, I would say less than five came close to inspiring me. The rest seemed quite bureaucratic, and it appears the major message they were conveying was, `do like me, get an education just to get a job`, rather than showing contagious love for the subject they taught.

Paraphrasing Paul Simon, `although my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none` (Kodachrome, 1973), the fact is that I was able to pick the pieces. Somewhat discouraged by a department head who waited until the senior year to tell me I was not really suited to be one of his peers, I stayed away from graduate school and managed to build a career elsewhere. You see, I was unlucky enough to attend a class taught by that same Rutgers department head, called `The last 11,000 years`. If he thought I was not hot stuff, I reciprocate the feeling. He was an awfully boring bow-tied bloke, who displayed a thick air of arrogance that was not matched by his prowess as an educator.

The bottom line is, once I graduated from college, I had a student loan that cost me $88.31 for a few years. No huge harm was done.

But I find that college students are getting a raw deal today. For while college costs have increased by leaps and bounds, the quality of educators has not, at least judging from the comments made by current students on myspace. A lot of people now leave college with a mini-mortgage to pay, and they are likely to have been educated by a bunch of people who might be very good researchers, but very poor educators. As far as I can tell, in this day and age, tenure is still given mostly based on research production, rather than aptitude to communicate in class, in other words, to educate. This means people are paying for a Rolls Royce, and driving away in a Yugo. Students are disbursing top dollar for undergraduate education which, for all practical purposes, means zilch in the job market these days, and they will still need to get a graduate degree, and another mini-mortgage in the process. This is a sad state of affairs.

Students will find a highly competitive world out there, which will force one to outperform others in order to survive. But that is not what they really get from lecture halls. Academia is a cocoon that protects complacency.

Whether the laws of supply and demand will ever weed out incompetent educators from professorships, I do not know. If ever education does become globalized, and students are able to take online courses from low cost educational institutions located in other countries, and such become widely accepted in the USA, it remains to be seen.

I just think college students are getting an awfully bad deal.


Reproduced from

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