Arnold Kling  

What Professors Want

What I've Been Reading Lately... Back to School Edition...

Ben Stein writes,

To make friends with your teachers, try the following:

• Read your assignments and be ready to discuss them.

I can tell you, based on my years of teaching at glorious American University, stupendously beautiful University of California, Santa Cruz, and spiritual and good-hearted Pepperdine, that not a lot of your fellow students will have read the assigned work.

If you're among the ones who have read it, and can raise your hand to discuss it, you'll place yourself at the top of the teacher's mind right away. He or she will be conscious of you, will appreciate you, and will remember you.

• Be polite but firm in class.

If you and your teacher disagree on something, you shouldn't be afraid to challenge him or her. Never do so rudely or cruelly (although you'll be tempted), but teachers want you to challenge them if it's based on facts and data and sound reasoning. They consider it a job well done when their students do that.

...Teachers are there to teach. If you show that you're there to learn, they'll admire you and thank you. Not as many students are in school to learn as there should be. If you're one of them, you're way ahead of the game.

One year I went to the board and I wrote "goal is to get the most out of class." I said that this phrase applied to a winner. Then I said that losers were slightly different. To illustrate, I erased the words "the most."

Teaching mostly losers is no fun. That's why I'm working on this idea I'm calling peripatetics.

I wonder what would happen if you took the government subsidies out of education. Would the losers disappear from campus? Or would colleges become so dependent on tuition that they would move in the direction of accommodating the losers?

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The author at De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum in a related article titled Lecionar, segundo Arnold Kling writes:
    Teaching mostly losers is no fun. Se você é aluno e/ou professor, leia isto. Claudio... [Tracked on August 21, 2007 11:48 AM]
COMMENTS (6 to date)
Heather writes:

From my experiences in college, I would expect that very little would change. A large percentage of the "losers" come from very affluent families that would simply subsidize their education because they believe a college education is the way for their children to become affluent.

Mark H writes:

I think your attitude is completely wrong-headed. You assume that students learn at the pleasure of the professor and university. Last time I checked, the students (and their families) had to pay for university through tuition and/or taxes. As an economist, I would think you understand this situation very well. So, without students, there are no universities; only think tanks and labs. If you just want to do your research, then fine, say it. But it sounds like you want to teach as well. However, it also sounds like you just want to teach only the "good" kids. We all want our lives to be easier, don't we?

The bottom line is teachers, and the school system in general (k-12 and college), lack any outside-the-box thinking about the problem. Did it ever occur to you that maybe the problem lies with the teachers and the system? Did you ever stop to consider that each student comes from a different starting point and has a unique set of interests? If this is the case, why do we build our schools like they're factories processing cookie-cutter people? More to the point, did it occur to you that students had to take your class because it was required? What does that tell you about their motivation to learn in your class?

Instead of whining, why don't you apply your economic skills to actually fixing the system instead of putting the responsibility entirely on the students.

Brian writes:

Even if the education of the losers is subsidized by their parents, a stern grading system would serve to separate them from the winners.

Chuck writes:

The world is full of philistines.

Chuck writes:

To elaborate on that, probably the issue isn't so much government money bringing people into higher education who are jack-asses, it is rise of materialism that has turned an experience that is traditionally as much about self-improvement and academics into a place where immature impatient people begin the endless pursuit of things.

SusieQ writes:

If your assertion that the losers are the children of affluent parents is correct,then removing the government subsidy would not affect these students. However, those who want to learn but are unable to finance an education without assistance will be unable to attend college. So, by taking away the subsidies, you are asking for more losers in your classrooms and fewer who really want to learn.

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