spelling....knowledge

aloisia schmid a-schmi at uiuc.edu
Sun Nov 16 22:56:11 EST 1997


This morning I was discussing a topic related to something that has
appeared in a recent thread here.    

It is my feeling that spelling and copying and cheating in general are
symptomatic of a much bigger problem.  I was telling a friend this morning
that I have decided I really don't like teaching because I don't feel like
students really enjoy learning anymore.  That there is absolutely no love
of learning purely for the sake of mastery anymore.  I am not that old,
but I have to say that when I went to college I was so excited at the idea
of being at a really great institution and at having the oportunity to get
a college education that I was completely respectful of the process and
totally in love with everything people talked about or referred to or
brought up in any discussion.  My very first night at college, a
philosophy professor came and ran a sherry hour and the upperclassmen (I
was a first day college freshman remember!) and he had a discussion of
Aristotle and the light at the end of the tunnel and I remember thinking,
"Well, this is either really stupid or I don't understand.  And I don't
think these people are really dumb, so I better go read some Aristotle." 
The point being that that never happens anymore.  People do not EVER seem
to be motivated to find anything out on their own anymore.  No one is ever
interested in knowing it because they think it is so cool that nothing
could be more interesting to them at that particualr moment than learning
more about it.  

And so we have students who are only interested in material they are going
to be graded on.  And students who can't spell or put a sentence together
because they don't read on their own anymore.  They don't read and
therfore can't write.  And most infuriating of all, they are not students
at college, feeling priviledged for being there---they are consumers
shelling out big bucks for an education; their professors are education
providers in the way doctors and nurses are health-care providers.  As
such they feel completely free to demand maximum quality for their buck. 
And to their way of thinking, this means being able to call a professor
and leave the message that they would like him to return their call!  They
feel completely at ease holding a TA responsible for their own bad grades
on an exam or a lab report.  They feel that if they failed to perform
well, then it is the problem of the provider, that the provider did not do
his or her job, and that they, as consumers, have every right to demand
better performance.  

I am not sure what the answer is.  How do you instill a love of learning? 
I don't know but I think that even in the last 10 years, we've gone a long
way towards losing whatever instilled it in the first place. I'd love to
hear from people as to how they think it might be possible to make it cool
to be an intellectual again.  How do you make it cool to be well-read, to
have a great vocabulary?  When did being well-eduacted and literate become
intellectual snobbery?  And how do we turn that around?

                     
                                          Alice



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