That's Ron Srigley, describing his initial response to an epiphany he recently experienced regarding his university students. The whole thing — Dear Parents: Everything You Need To Know About Your Son And Daughter's University, But Don't — is here, and I highly recommend it as your weekend long-read.
I have a somewhat scattered reaction to it all.
It of course brought me back to my own university days, and one episode in particular. During the height of my interior drama I sat down to an early-term exam, and realized, as I wrestled with one question after the next, that I was bombing. In the space at the end of the exam I wrote a brief blurt to the effect that I found the professorially-imposed constraints of contemporary academia to be subjective and artificial and really, really frustrating, dammit. I can't recall whether I had any second thoughts as I handed it in. No matter -- there'd be plenty of time for those later.
The next week the professor handed back the exams. And, yes, I had indeed flunked it. Also, my professor wrote her own response to my rough rant -- to wit: these professorially-imposed constraints I railed against were something I'd agreed to work within when I applied as a student. Those constraints weren't going to change just because I didn't like them. If I had expectations that weren't being met, I'd have to pursue them elsewhere.
She added, "Book an appointment with me."
As loath as I was to face and possibly compound my embarrassment, I went ahead and booked that appointment. Then we met. She noted the lousy mark, and the blurt, and asked what happened. I acknowledged the bottom line -- I hadn't prepared. She pressed further and inquired about my emotional condition -- frankly, and in terms that didn't indulge it. I returned her candor. We discussed the syllabus, the timeline, and variations on the subject matter which I might potentially find the most engaging. She asked if I was up for it; I said I believed I was. She said I could book another appointment if that proved not to be the case. Otherwise, she and I were going to proceed as agreed-upon -- one assignment at a time.
I calmed down, I sat down, I did the work.
I am, of course, very grateful for this episode, and the adult charity I received as a foundering kid -- a profoundly formative experience, in fact.* But I disclose the episode for another reason.
First of all, reading Srigley has me wondering if the tables haven't turned so far that present-day impetuous-types like my younger self would be denied a similar chance to grow.
Secondly, my professor's initial response -- This is what you signed up for -- was absolutely right. And as weird and as awful as it sounds (to my ears, at any rate), I wonder if it isn't the most truthful response to Prof. Srigley as well. Coddling young "customers" who've enrolled in the Humanities -- maybe that's not what you signed up for in (I'm guessing) the early-80s. But that's where it's at now. If you have something you'd rather offer -- well, perhaps you'll need to pursue that elsewhere.
|Someplace where students never leave their beds would be optimal.|
*An act of mercy I've tried to reciprocate wherever possible -- Je vous adresse mes plus vifs remerciements, Linda Hutcheon.