Is it time to reverse the customer-service mentaility plaguing academe?

Does this sound like a description of incoming college students to you?

In “On Stupidity” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the author (Thomas H. Benton) says he “see[s] too many students who are:

·         Primarily focused on their own emotions — on the primacy of their “feelings” — rather than on analysis supported by evidence.
·         Uncertain what constitutes reliable evidence, thus tending to use the most easily found sources uncritically.
·         Convinced that no opinion is worth more than another: All views are equal.
·         Uncertain about academic honesty and what constitutes plagiarism. (I recently had a student defend herself by claiming that her paper was more than 50 percent original, so she should receive that much credit, at least.)
·         Unable to follow or make a sustained argument.
·         Uncertain about spelling and punctuation (and skeptical that such skills matter).
·         Hostile to anything that is not directly relevant to their career goals, which are vaguely understood.
·         Increasingly interested in the social and athletic above the academic, while “needing” to receive very high grades.
·         Not really embarrassed at their lack of knowledge and skills.
·         Certain that any academic failure is the fault of the professor rather than the student.”

While I certainly see some students in their own similar little nirvanas, many of them are also engaged and engaging, intellectually curious and grounded.  Neither Benton nor I are pessimistic about how today’s new students think, since every generation learns differently.

The missing piece in today’s academic meme of “student-centered services” is students are not brought face to face with the realization that we *all* think differently, we all need to be able to speak to other people both from our own frame of reference as well as from theirs.  Communication and communication modes are a two way street — sure, the professor needs to be able to communicate so the students can understand; but the students also need to learn to communicate so the professor understands the students’ understanding.

In the larger view, “student centered” doesn’t mean change everything for the student’s ease of understanding, it means take the time to learn to communicate with the student and teach the student to communicate with people who think/operate differently.

How can we take the extended arguments of the Enlightenment and make them accessible to today’s shorter attention span?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s