Field of Science

Infantizing college students

TPP taught biology to freshman non-majors and majors for a long, long time, for over 20 years total. So just about every intellectual student-faculty interaction you can think of has happened along at one time or another. Over the years, especially among non-majors, you run into students who have been taught a lot of nonsense about evolution, and some have frankly said that they don't believe in evolution. Now to a point TPP was OK with this; he did not allow any student to imply or out and out state that he was being dishonest. Changing their beliefs was never an educational objective, however the students were obligated to show that they understood why science said what science said. And when some clearly could not demonstrate such understanding, a few cried "religious discrimination" and asked to be let off the hook. This particular attitude has become way more prevalent and unfortunately the most common administrative response has been to tell faculty to be more accomodating, to be more concerned about students' feelings, and to just feed them with a bigger spoon. TPP's basic philosophy was that while you are entitled to your beliefs you are not entitled to avoid discomforting or contradictory ideas, you are not entitled to a free-pass when it comes to a critical analysis of beliefs like yours (individuals were never picked on). After all this is about education. These days parents and students still want the higher education passport, a degree, to jobs and careers, but the current attitude is that when parents present you with a narrow-minded, anti-science, parochial, self-satisified, entitled little twerp, the twerp is to be returned in the same condition, which seems totally antithetic to higher education. Apparently though business schools are pretty good at doing this; the sciences and humanities not so much. Our administrators, protectors of quality higher education all, give faculty advice about providing trigger warnings and the rules to follow if students want to "opt-out" of discomforting parts of your courses, so religious students can avoid learning about evolution. The only way to do this in TPP's opinion is to not take biology at all and yes, medical schools may object, at least so far. This is all the more troubling because one of the few things where the old USA was really number one was in the size and affordability of our public education system, and the way basic research and scholarship was encouraged. This system is being dismantled as fast as anti-education people can go; under fund it, restrict research areas and support, destroy shared governance, take away academic freedom, and weaken tenure. Apparently many in our country no longer value the ability to think, the ability to understand that bumper sticker slogans are not thoughtful foreign policy nor good education. Never mind that higher education has long been directly and indirectly connected to this country's productivity and prosperity. So let's not challenge students with new ideas or make them think, certainly don't encourage them critically examine anything. The minor non-protest at Duke about freshmen who don't want to read a particular book that might make them uncomfortable, a book they may disagree with, which is OK, but these are the very students who need this type of education the most. TPP isn't even slightly sympathetic to their cause. Twerps.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have my sympathy. I can't imagine trying to get important concepts and facts into a mind that feels the issue was settled by Jupiter and his thunderbolt. And to do it without threatening the equilibrium of those who seek "credentials", not knowledge.