Musings of a College Instructor

The following represent the swirling conversations I hear as I travel to various colleges where I am an adjunct instructor.

**

I was hurrying to my classroom when I overheard the following.  A female professor smilingly says to a student that she looks quite lovely in that new outfit.  As the student thanks her and rushes off to class, the professor turns to another female professor standing in the hallway and worriedly says, "I guess I shouldn't have said that.  It could be construed as sexist."  The other professor, well-known for her multicultural slant, laughingly retorts that as the only feminist in the department, only she "can do or say anything" implying that the first professor should be more careful about her comments.

I am repulsed by the stupidity of both comments and the hubris of the feminist, but I bite my tongue and move on.

**

I received this from a student.  It is the first paragraph of an out-of-class assignment.  It is not the exception; it reflects the majority of the writing that I receive from my students.  The topic was about "Green Power" in California.  No corrections have been made.

Why don't I agree with their reason well yes they are in debit and therefore there is a need in saving money but there is other ways.  For insists in this solar panel really saving money or it just bring down the coast of utilities bills?  Well in the reading "In order to start this solar panel system we need land and not just feet but acres according to California's law that was now mandated 78,490 acres was needed" Now think about it is it free? What was on the land before?  Will this really save us from the economical crisis or will it just cause a economical downfall?

[The author] asserts that the places where the solar panel generators were being put on not just in empty space but are being put on "farms, parks and etc".  So indeed it is not only bringing our bills lower but bringing up a cost for these generators.  Why should we destroy agriculture and farms were most of our veggies and fruits grow just because the state mandates.  Isn't it still bringing the economy to spend money because of the acres being bought?

I could surmise what this student means, but the English syntax problems are very problematic.  How can this student possibly articulate higher-level writing or, for that matter, understand higher level reading?  This student is a freshman in a two-year college.

**

At another two year college, a pregnant student had her baby five weeks early.  Thus, she was given an accommodation and sent me her work online in order not to fall behind.  When she returned, the other students were all excited to see the baby pictures.  I inquired as to who was taking care of the baby.  The 19-year-old told me her mother was watching the baby.  I asked the student if she planned on registering for next term, and her excited response was, "Yes, and the financial aid office told me that my financial aid will be increased now that I am a single mother and my boyfriend does not live with me."  When I inquired if she intended to marry her boyfriend, she looked at me with disdain and quite emphatically said, "Not for a long time, if ever." 

Thus, single motherhood is praised and rewarded while we the taxpayers shoulder the cost.  I am reminded of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's report "Defining Deviancy Down" and his description of the "earthquake that shuddered through the American family in the past twenty years."  Since then, the demise of the traditional nuclear family has only worsened across all demographic and economic lines.

**

When I assign my students David McCullough's "Why History," they do very poorly.  Yet when I show them the documentary film Hallowed Grounds about the many overseas American military cemeteries, they are struck by the dedication of the American soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice to secure the freedom of other peoples.  It takes but one movie to instill in them a certain pride in this country, yet the schools still do not  mandate American history classes at the college level.  These young people are woefully unprepared to understand national and international issues that directly affect them.  Most have never read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or even weekly news magazines.  When I do a tutorial on library studies, no students can tell me the difference between scholarly journals and popular magazines.  One student could not believe me when I said that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is more commonly known as ObamaCare.  He had never heard the term "ObamaCare"!

I am reminded of Adolf Hitler's remark -- "How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think" -- and shudder at the implications.

**

A few years back, a student told me that she was "proud to be black, but not proud to be American."  Far too many black students harbor resentment and anger about America even though they have never experienced segregation.  They will not concede that the hideous Jim Crow laws have been struck down and that black Americans have made enormous strides.  They cannot acknowledge that the strength of a nation lies in its ability to admit its errors and work toward correcting them.  Instead, these students hearken back to a victimization profile and claim that since there is racism (albeit not legislated), America is still the evil empire.  When a white student wonders how there could be entrenched racism when there is a black president, the other students scoff and ridicule him.  Every time I hear Michelle Obama speak, I am reminded of the mindset of my previous student.

**

A full-time professor of English has posted the following sign:

Reality is for people who lack imagination.

What balderdash.  And this is supposed to teach the next generation what, exactly?

**

Cell phones have become the scourge of a classroom.  A student who could do better comes late to class and leaves early.  Moreover, he is constantly texting.  When I explain that such tardiness would get him fired from a retail environment, he shrugs his shoulders.  When further confronted, the young man shamelessly tells me that "this class is just an elective.  I don't need it."  When asked if he checked the textbook since his resume and business letter do not conform to any templates in the assigned book, he tells me he doesn't need the textbook. 

There is a complete disconnect in this young man's mind; instead, he will use vapid excuses and demand to be passed.  I think I will recommend the story by Mary Sherry "In Praise of the F Word" -- thus, he cannot claim he has not been forewarned.

**

The students who sit before me are, for the most part, decent individuals.  Many of them are working 30-plus hours outside school in order to maintain themselves financially.  I see kindnesses among them and genuine concern about doing well.  But society has done them a huge disservice by not preparing them to make sound judgments, by not demanding that they engage in pragmatic critical thinking, and by infantilizing them through monetary rewards instead of demanding more prudent behavior.  We cannot continue to set the bar of expectations so low.  

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.

 Correction: Mary Shelley corrected to Mary Sherry

The following represent the swirling conversations I hear as I travel to various colleges where I am an adjunct instructor.

**

I was hurrying to my classroom when I overheard the following.  A female professor smilingly says to a student that she looks quite lovely in that new outfit.  As the student thanks her and rushes off to class, the professor turns to another female professor standing in the hallway and worriedly says, "I guess I shouldn't have said that.  It could be construed as sexist."  The other professor, well-known for her multicultural slant, laughingly retorts that as the only feminist in the department, only she "can do or say anything" implying that the first professor should be more careful about her comments.

I am repulsed by the stupidity of both comments and the hubris of the feminist, but I bite my tongue and move on.

**

I received this from a student.  It is the first paragraph of an out-of-class assignment.  It is not the exception; it reflects the majority of the writing that I receive from my students.  The topic was about "Green Power" in California.  No corrections have been made.

Why don't I agree with their reason well yes they are in debit and therefore there is a need in saving money but there is other ways.  For insists in this solar panel really saving money or it just bring down the coast of utilities bills?  Well in the reading "In order to start this solar panel system we need land and not just feet but acres according to California's law that was now mandated 78,490 acres was needed" Now think about it is it free? What was on the land before?  Will this really save us from the economical crisis or will it just cause a economical downfall?

[The author] asserts that the places where the solar panel generators were being put on not just in empty space but are being put on "farms, parks and etc".  So indeed it is not only bringing our bills lower but bringing up a cost for these generators.  Why should we destroy agriculture and farms were most of our veggies and fruits grow just because the state mandates.  Isn't it still bringing the economy to spend money because of the acres being bought?

I could surmise what this student means, but the English syntax problems are very problematic.  How can this student possibly articulate higher-level writing or, for that matter, understand higher level reading?  This student is a freshman in a two-year college.

**

At another two year college, a pregnant student had her baby five weeks early.  Thus, she was given an accommodation and sent me her work online in order not to fall behind.  When she returned, the other students were all excited to see the baby pictures.  I inquired as to who was taking care of the baby.  The 19-year-old told me her mother was watching the baby.  I asked the student if she planned on registering for next term, and her excited response was, "Yes, and the financial aid office told me that my financial aid will be increased now that I am a single mother and my boyfriend does not live with me."  When I inquired if she intended to marry her boyfriend, she looked at me with disdain and quite emphatically said, "Not for a long time, if ever." 

Thus, single motherhood is praised and rewarded while we the taxpayers shoulder the cost.  I am reminded of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's report "Defining Deviancy Down" and his description of the "earthquake that shuddered through the American family in the past twenty years."  Since then, the demise of the traditional nuclear family has only worsened across all demographic and economic lines.

**

When I assign my students David McCullough's "Why History," they do very poorly.  Yet when I show them the documentary film Hallowed Grounds about the many overseas American military cemeteries, they are struck by the dedication of the American soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice to secure the freedom of other peoples.  It takes but one movie to instill in them a certain pride in this country, yet the schools still do not  mandate American history classes at the college level.  These young people are woefully unprepared to understand national and international issues that directly affect them.  Most have never read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or even weekly news magazines.  When I do a tutorial on library studies, no students can tell me the difference between scholarly journals and popular magazines.  One student could not believe me when I said that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is more commonly known as ObamaCare.  He had never heard the term "ObamaCare"!

I am reminded of Adolf Hitler's remark -- "How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think" -- and shudder at the implications.

**

A few years back, a student told me that she was "proud to be black, but not proud to be American."  Far too many black students harbor resentment and anger about America even though they have never experienced segregation.  They will not concede that the hideous Jim Crow laws have been struck down and that black Americans have made enormous strides.  They cannot acknowledge that the strength of a nation lies in its ability to admit its errors and work toward correcting them.  Instead, these students hearken back to a victimization profile and claim that since there is racism (albeit not legislated), America is still the evil empire.  When a white student wonders how there could be entrenched racism when there is a black president, the other students scoff and ridicule him.  Every time I hear Michelle Obama speak, I am reminded of the mindset of my previous student.

**

A full-time professor of English has posted the following sign:

Reality is for people who lack imagination.

What balderdash.  And this is supposed to teach the next generation what, exactly?

**

Cell phones have become the scourge of a classroom.  A student who could do better comes late to class and leaves early.  Moreover, he is constantly texting.  When I explain that such tardiness would get him fired from a retail environment, he shrugs his shoulders.  When further confronted, the young man shamelessly tells me that "this class is just an elective.  I don't need it."  When asked if he checked the textbook since his resume and business letter do not conform to any templates in the assigned book, he tells me he doesn't need the textbook. 

There is a complete disconnect in this young man's mind; instead, he will use vapid excuses and demand to be passed.  I think I will recommend the story by Mary Sherry "In Praise of the F Word" -- thus, he cannot claim he has not been forewarned.

**

The students who sit before me are, for the most part, decent individuals.  Many of them are working 30-plus hours outside school in order to maintain themselves financially.  I see kindnesses among them and genuine concern about doing well.  But society has done them a huge disservice by not preparing them to make sound judgments, by not demanding that they engage in pragmatic critical thinking, and by infantilizing them through monetary rewards instead of demanding more prudent behavior.  We cannot continue to set the bar of expectations so low.  

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.

 Correction: Mary Shelley corrected to Mary Sherry