Pushing back


Seth Godin has a lot of good things to say in this short blog post, such as:

When a professor assigns you to send a blogger a list of vague and inane interview questions (“1. How did you get started in this field? 2. What type of training (education) does this field require? 3. What do you like best about your job? 4. what do you like least about your job?”) I think you have an obligation to say, “Sir, I’m going to be in debt for ten years because of this degree. Perhaps you could give us an assignment that actually pushes us to solve interesting problems, overcome our fear or learn something that I could learn in no other way…”

When a professor spends hours in class going over concepts that are clearly covered in the textbook, I think you have an obligation to repeat the part about the debt and say, “perhaps you could assign this as homework and we could have an actual conversation in class…”

As a professor, I love it when students make such demands of me. It’s how I want to teach anyway, and it makes it a lot easier when I know students are not only on board with but insisting that I not simply lecture from the book, repeat problems that are in the book, and expect them to learn only the things that are printed in the book.

So I would add one thing to Seth’s injunction: Students, if you feel this way about your professors, take a look at your peers who don’t feel this way. Do you have classmates who just want the professor to read from the book, give tests that are just like the book’s examples, and not expect more from them? Then push back there, as well. Demand from your peers that they not leave you out on an island demanding academic excellence and getting your money’s worth.

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6 Comments

Filed under Education, Higher ed, Inverted classroom, Life in academia, Peer instruction, Student culture, Study hacks, Teaching, Vocation

6 responses to “Pushing back

  1. G

    I wish I had the sense to tell one of my instructors something like that, many years ago. At that time, weblogs were not yet popular, so the instruction started as, “Call up a company, and ask…”. There was a point of objective to the assignment, but such an objective could have been handled in other ways. Two ways that I can imagine are: Visitors from the field to the classroom, and the use of Internships.

  2. You make a good point there. But I think that talking to people that are holding the degree you are striving for is very important since it gives you a retrospective perspective that is valuable to judge what teachers do.

    • G

      Yes, as you say, “talking to people…” can be good. It is better than “send a blogger a list of … questions”.

      Also, I was generalizing outside of just, but including Mathematics.

      A better way to handle the information inquiry is make an appointment to SEE someone in person, give an indication what you will ask before you see the person, and then at the meeting, ask the questions and make a few pointed notes.

  3. Julia

    My father always used to say that education is the one area where people want to get the least for their money. (Well, maybe that and gym memberships.) We’re facing this same cynicism with our general ed program, which almost everyone (students and advisors alike) view as a bunch of tedious boxes to check off on a form. It blows my mind when an advisee is sitting there saying, “I don’t want to take anything where I have to do any writing,” and I’m looking at the course offerings thinking, “Wow! I’d like to take this and that and that….” (If only everyone were more like me :))

  4. Pingback: Want a job? Major in what you enjoy. « Casting Out Nines

  5. Mary Mimouna

    As a teacher of over two decades, I think the professors/teachers who teach out of the book in the way you describe do so because they either don’t really know their subject backwards and forwards, or are recent graduates and lack confidence.