« Looseleaf | Main | In the Mail »

Lower Education

First it was $12,000 garage renovations. Now it's outrageous email written by students with poor ideas of boundaries. Jonathan D Glater's "To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It's All About Me" had me spluttering this morning. The students who, having missed class, request notes. From the professor! The students who pre-submit their term papers for comments. Consider:

Meg Worley, an assistant professor of English at Pomona College in California, said she told students that they must say thank you after receiving a professor's response to an e-mail message.

"One of the rules that I teach my students is, the less powerful person always has to write back," Professor Worley said.

I'd have thought that students raised in a house with indoor plumbing would have the sense to know what Professor Worley has to teach. The question may be whether students understand that they are the less powerful persons. As more and more families regard the university experience as a service that is purchased with the price of tuition, students will come to see themselves as customers, placing the burden of instruction squarely on the faculty. This is the ultimate trivialization of education, which can have no intrinsic value under such circumstances.

When I went to college, students proved themselves - or not. Nobody would have put it this way, but tuition bought the chance to fail. Where there's little or no chance of failure, degrees, including degrees from Harvard, don't mean a thing.


TrackBack URL for this entry:


Kieran Healy commented on this too:

One other thing: Assistant Professor of English Meg Worley’s rule that students must thank her if they receive a response because “One of the rules that I teach my students is, the less powerful person always has to write back.” Very Foucauldian. Only not really. I think Erving Goffman makes the observation somewhere that the capacity to be gracious is actually an aspect of being powerful, not something that’s owed to the powerful. In any event, I thought it seemed a little snotty. More: In the comments thread to this post by Tim Burke, Meg says she was misquoted, and the rules she says she talked to the reporter about are in fact quite reasonable. Stupid NYT.

Your basic point remains, however, that the more the university is a service to students as customers, the less a university degree means a damn thing.

I am a kottke.org micropatron

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2