My Love/Hate Relationship with College Teaching

Every now and then, we like to feature “old” posts again. It occurs to me that student debt is one of the biggest problems facing families (and especially recent college students and graduates) today. Not only because students are saddled with substantial debt upon graduation: the necessity for taking on debt to gain an education and credentials reinforces the idea that education is primarily a financial transaction measured by money, how much you owe and how much you can make in a post-college job so that you can pay down your debt. Small wonder that students are so focused on “success,” whether measured by grades or money. There’s much less room for curiosity and creativity when you’re worried about paying the bills.

The Contrary Perspective

college

Richard Sahn.  Introduction by William Astore.

Being a college professor is supposed to be a grand profession.  Assuming we’re not underpaid adjuncts with neither benefits nor job security, our pay is decent, our autonomy is considerable, and we get a fair amount of time off in the summer.  How dare we whine about hardships!

But the American academic profession is changing.  Today the mantra is relevance as measured primarily by money (in one form or another).  Are your classes full? Money.  Are you winning grants? Money.  Are you teaching subjects that lead directly to high-paying jobs for students? Money. And if you’re not “money,” you’re vulnerable to charges of irrelevance and subject to elimination.

Students today naturally reflect larger society.  They too value money, commodities, consumerism, status, winning at any cost.

As professors in the liberal arts, we try to encourage them to value more subtle qualities.  We…

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