Sunday, May 10, 2015
Kids Today: A Response to Mark Bauerlein
Or didn't that cross his mind because they don't they have any teaching English at Emory, or because freshmen are invisible to professors and don't count?
"he criticized the generational shift from using college to search for meaning to using college to search for work."
I will spare you my first thought, but it might have been the same as yours. Need a coauthor?
My father attended college to become an engineer. My grandfather attended college to become an engineer. (For a generational context, my grandfather's education was interrupted by a year or so in France to help win WW I.) They both wanted good grades because they both wanted to pass to indicate that they had learned enough to get good jobs, and I know that my Dad's buddies did not put English classes high on their list of what mattered in collge as long as the grade was a C. I'll spare any English faculty what these ex-GIs called their English class in the late 40s.
My generation was the anomaly that attended college to "seek meaning", not the norm. And I did, by the way, taking a variety of classes just for the fun of it, before going into physics for the fun of it.
The oil shock and recession circa 1974 and the Reagan recession circa 1981-82 took care of most of that "search for meaning". In fact, I recall a major shift from social science majors to business and STEM majors was quite disruptive in the late 70s, even before Reagan came along.
Obligatory fact check:
Most of that grade inflation happened between 1960 and 1972 +/- as a result of the Vietnam-era draft. It is not a recent phenomenon as he implies. We even had an A+ grade to help that along. My college English class was a joke compared to the one I had in high school. If he wants to read evaluations where students might have heard a discouraging word or grade, he needs to look in a math or science department.
The scary thing is that it is rare these days to find an opinion piece in a venue that carries weight that doesn't come from this same ideological background.
From what I've seen at a couple of liberal arts institutions, a number of humanities faculty are starting to actively discourage the PhD among their majors. Unlike like Professor Bauerlein, I'm reluctant to extrapolate any larger trend from that.
Comments on The Site That Shall Not Be Named indicate that all of the papers in his 100 and 200 level classes are graded by TAs, so there are plenty of adjuncts involved in classes where he is the instructor of record.
My name would never have shown up officially on any documents when I was a TA in grad school, even though I was the only person in the room teaching recitations just like some regular faculty did. Still and adjunct IMO.
Not at all. Would you prefer the term protagonist?
Enh, Beige will.
Who's more wrong -- the Class Warrior or the person carrying out his bidding even if he thinks the Class Warrior is wrong?
This argument that the kids are to blame is in opposition to some extent to Putnam's "Our Kids", where a lot of the blame is placed on us, the adults, for being self-centered, broadly speaking. I'm not quite done with the book, but certainly social and economic factors is more the problem. Bauerlein seems to account for none of that. Income inequality, major recession, all the reports that show that the college educated outearn the non-college educated? Where is that in his argument?
It's op-eds like these -- and others I've seen recently -- that give higher ed a bad name. No wonder no one wants to fund it if they equate it with whiners looking for sycophants. And that hurts institutions that don't have those kind of attitudes or whose missions are to broaden the college-educated among us.
"It's op-eds like these -- and others I've seen recently -- that give higher ed a bad name."
It's also op-eds like these that give op-eds a bad name, especially ones in The New York Times.
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