Our friend Ubertramp sent along this little video, which certainly provides food for thought:
There’s much to empathize with here. 19th century educational structure – check. Class sizes – check. Ludicrousness of testing models – punch that chad hard. Textbook costs? Student loan debt? Job market evolving so fast colleges can barely keep up? Check, check, and check.But there’s a tone here that troubles me. The project acknowledges a variety of problems, and does so in a way that suggests a fair-minded ambivalence in places. On the whole, though, I feel like there’s a failure to accept responsibility by the generation of students on camera. If I’m missing something let me know, but in the meantime I made a few notes.
1:19: “200 students made 367 edits to this document.” Great. How many were factually accurate? How many involved basic grammatical errors? How many displayed the sort of higher-order analytical capability that we once associated with university-level work? If these aren’t fair questions, then why has the sequence failed to adequately communicate its point?
1:24: “…and surveyed themselves.” Of course they did. Because surveys are how this generation makes determinations about value.
1:36: “18% of my teachers know my name.” That’s bad. Not surprising, but bad. And large class sizes have always been one of my bugaboos, so I hear your pain. But how many of your professors’ names do you know? I once had a student tell me that I was the only one of her teachers whose name she knew. So maybe this cuts both ways.
1:40: “I complete 49% of the readings assigned to me.” That’s bad. And that’s … wait – whose fault is that?
1:45: “Only 26% are relevant to my life.” And here’s where the train really jumps the tracks. Frankly, I never met a college student who was sufficiently capable of making this statement. I was a pretty bright college student and I had no feckin’ clue. For every thing I was right about, there were probably five I was wrong about. That “relevant to my life” thing requires you to have remarkable self-awareness and a time machine, and this is why we don’t let students make all the decisions about their curriculum. They simply aren’t experienced enough to know what’s best for them.
If this makes me a pompous, out-of-touch geezer, so be it. Check back with me in the 30 years.
2:00: “I will read eight books this year…” Okay, so what’s the solution? I mean, I’m getting the point being made about the disconnect. Totally. But the tone seems to suggest that the people making these media consumption choices are somehow lacking all agency in the process? Hmmm.
2:20: Multi-tasking sequence. Well, I get that you’re busy. But let’s look closer at the multi-tasking issue, which is a hellish drain on efficiency. I’ve seen studies that show anywhere from 20-60% efficiency loss depending on complexity of the tasks and how many things are being done at once. So let’s pause here and ask: what’s really the question we need to be considering?
2:46: “I’m a multi-tasker. I HAVE to be.” Well, yeah, unless you’re willing to sacrifice TV, dedicated music listening, Facebooking, IMing, texting, surfing and the like for your education. I get how college is. I went there. Then I went back and got an MA. Then I went back to get some more letters after my name. I made my decisions. Sometimes I slacked the work. Sometimes I goofed off. Sometimes I partied the night before a test and sometimes my grade suffered. But I never pointed the finger at anybody but myself. Making decisions and living with the consequences is part of being an adult.
So let’s think hard about the phrase “I have to be.”
3:24: “I did not create the problems…but they are my problems.” Yes to a large part, but no to a small part. There’s no doubt this generation needs to sue their parents and the educational systems they grew up in for malpractice, and to say they’re now paying the price for other people’s mistakes is putting it mildly.
However, once you recognize your condition it’s up to you to deal with it. Just a moment ago you were telling me that you don’t read books, but you spend massive time on Facebook. That’s a problem that you create anew every day, isn’t it?
The video demonstrates a fair measure of awareness about the limitations of technology, at least, although I’m waiting for the moment where we all decide to own the situation.