By Gustavo Palomino
Higher education has some problems that nobody seems to care about. I believe higher education is, at times, guilty of squandering the potential students have to truly learn. A lot of students half ass their assignments, daydream during class and are more concerned with who liked their Facebook post than the material being presented in school. They do this because they can get away with it. There simply isn’t enough incentive to truly learn any given thing.
One of the problems is that some classes are too easy. True understanding isn’t required to pass a lot of classes. The following often happens: professors assign long readings, nobody reads it, the professors lecture on a fraction of the reading, and give a test on only their lecture. Students notice this pattern, and realize they don’t have to know everything that is supposedly being taught. A class that suffers from this disease causes students to not take a class seriously. Once a student loses respect for a class, then his level of commitment will decrease dramatically. How do we fix this?
A potential fix is integrating deeper communication. During many classes, the professor goes on and on without asking for sufficient participation from the class. I have been in dozens of classes where this has been the case. It is so damn boring. This lack of engagement causes us to start daydreaming, pretending we have to go to the bathroom and lookup whatever soulless nonsense is currently popular. The professors should ask us more questions.
Every single person should be forced to speak and prove they understand the material at one point or another. Who cares if they get embarrassed or aren’t prepared. If you can’t handle that, you should fail. We need lively moderated discussion to be properly engaged and focused. This would also make it so professors don’t have to give us as much boring written homework, since this type of communication would prove students understand what is going on. It would also help us get to know each other and uncover the roots of how we really think.
Perhaps the biggest problem we have is people passing classes when they should have failed. This undermines higher education more than anything else. It turns it into a big joke. Over the years I have met a lot of people who clearly have no idea what is going on in class. It may be due to stupidity, laziness or a combination of the two. Yet they somehow pass. A good example of this problem can be found by traveling back to a psychology class I once took.
One of our assignments was to interview a mentally ill person and attempt to diagnose him. The assignment was an essay that required us to include a detailed physical description of the subject, a mental disorder diagnosis and a course of treatment. The professor was too lazy to hand back our papers, so he left them in a pile on his desk and told us to look for our paper at the end of class. I waited for everyone to leave to get my paper calmly. When I went for my paper I noticed that there were a few essays that nobody claimed. I took the liberty of reading one of them. It was absolutely awful. It displayed no real understanding of the material and it was not even close to meeting the length requirement. I also noticed that the person received a B on the paper. This upset me. How could someone hand in such garbage and get a B? I have had many other similar experiences.
The above problems have a lot of negative effects. They perpetuate laziness, boredom and make a mockery of what is supposed to be a serious endeavor. There clearly is some sort of pressure professors have to pass students.
That pressure cannot possibly be worth causing students to build bad learning habits, that will affect their future lives. We have intelligent and knowledgeable professors at Rutgers, yet they often fail to properly pass on that knowledge. There is no real commitment to learning here, and that needs to change.