Monday, July 24, 2006

College anyone?

I am for education. Sometimes formal school settings can help you attain a good education, and sometimes they are a detriment. I do believe you can educate yourself quite thoroughly-it can be a risky business, depending on the subject matter, but it can be done. That being said I found a lot of humor and a lot of truth in this piece (hat tip to The Daily Eudemon). Here's a little bit, but read the whole thing:

To the extent that universities actually try to teach anything, which is to say to a very limited extent, they do little more than inhibit intelligent students of inquiring mind. And they are unnecessary: The professor’s role is purely disciplinary: By threats of issuing failing grades, he insures that the student comes to class and reads certain things. But a student who has to be forced to learn shouldn’t be in school in the first place. By making a chore of what would otherwise be a pleasure, the professor instills a lifelong loathing for the material.

The truth is that universities positively discourage learning. Think about it. Suppose you want to learn Twain. A fruitful approach might be to read Twain. The man wrote to be read, not analyzed tediously and inaccurately by begowned twits. It might help to read a life of Twain. All of this the student could do, happily, even joyously, sitting under a tree of an afternoon. This, I promise, is what Twain had in mind.

But no. The student must go to a class in American Literature, and be asked by some pompous drone, “Now, what is Twain trying to tell us in paragraph four?” This presumes that Twain knew less well than the professor what he was trying to say, and that he couldn’t say it by himself. No. Not being much of a writer, the poor man needs the help of a semiliterate drab who couldn’t sell a
pancake recipe to Boy’s Life. As bad, the approach suggests that the student is too dim to see the obvious or think for himself. He can’t read a book without a middleman. He probably ends by hating Twain.

I learned history without the help (hindrance) of school. I had a love for it, and the textbooks-which distort anyway-just couldn't compete with 'living books' (as a youth) and complete, indepth accounts and analysis as an adult. I will say, I never would have appreciated poetry without a couple of my college professors. And my high school English teacher, Mrs. Pawloski (may her soul rest in peace) , gave me the first clues on how to write and how to appreciate Shakespeare.

So, for me it is a mixed bag. I believe that a good teacher introduces you to a new world, but then simply guides you; letting you teach yourself.


Heather said...

I always found it funny that the professors of the classes I could have skipped and still received a good grade took attendance, while the classes I didn't dare miss for fear of not understanding the material, never took attendance.

JCurley said...

I'll bet some of those profs knew their classrooms would be empty if they didn't take attendence.

Some profs (as in any job) are just collecting a paycheck. While others can greatly affect or change your life.

You hope that the University can distinguish the difference and do something about it-but once tenure hits, there is not much they can do.