Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Are ALL College Professors "Dithering Idiots"? Of Course Not!

Yours truly, giving an advanced astrophysics seminar to college students, ca. 1978.

Fortunately, I escaped the college teaching scene before emerged to become the scourge of university professors everywhere. What these kids at all the listed universities get away with, in scorching many of their profs, is beyond the pale. The lingo, the level of disrespect....well, it gives one a whopper of a headache just wading through a minuscule fraction of the snark at a single university. And then one has those rated the highest, the "hotties". Give me a freakin' break! (Newsflash to college kids: the "hottie" is not a looker or the insecure goofball that practically tells you what to study for your mid-term, but the one who ruthlessly makes you work your asses off to EARN every grade you receive -whether on a lab report, term paper, project or final exam!)

Are college professors THAT bad, as a lot of these ratings lead one to think? Is it really necessary to have some site devoted to anonymously rating them, say beyond the usual standard student evaluation forms handed out after each term, and which I believe have mightily contributed to grade inflation?

Now, in today's Denver Post, it is nice to see Professor Dianne Basset, in a Guest Commentary, take the banner for all viciously maligned profs, assuring one and all that most are dedicated, and are emphatically not dithering idiots.

As she notes:

"As college professors, we take the responsibility of educating our workforce very seriously. Our primary focus is to provide quality instruction, advisement, and wise counsel. We work a minimum of 50 to 60 hours per week preparing rigorous courses and providing gratis services to our communities.

We conduct timely research and write those pesky articles and books from which we will make no money, only the satisfaction that we are extending the knowledge base of our respective fields. We purchase books and materials for some students out of our own pockets."

Wow! Brings back my own college teaching years when I did the same. And believe me, she's quite correct about making no money from books or articles. So why do we do it? ON the off chance that a bottle cast on some far shore after months or years of traverse....someone will find our own "jewels" of imparted knowledge and profit from them.

But what thanks have many of us received? Well, either crappy student evals because we didn't deliver the inflated marks that Junior or Missy desired, or......getting our names pilloried by anonymous little guttersnipes on rate my profs. Talk about thankless tasks.

Bassett's point about "earning far less than in the private sector" is also spot on, something I discovered on moving from college teaching to working for a radiotherapy software corporation.

But the last part is what I loved best, which was Basset's beautiful encapsulation of what WE expect from students:

"Our expectations are simple: Please come ready to learn. Please come to college knowing how to use commas, how to write complete sentences, and how to read a chapter in a book. Please complete homework assignments on time. Please do not plagiarize from the Internet. Please do not threaten to have your parents sue us if you receive a B in a class. Please ask questions if you are confused, and make an appointment to meet with us when you need extra help. Please question us, use us, and let us help you become the young men and women of integrity you are meant to be."

I could not have put it any more clearly!

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