Given some of the discussion in some of my previous posts (also here) and this post by Paco, today’s article in The New York Times, “New Class(room) War: Teacher vs. Technology,” is quite interesting. Here are a couple of choice passages:
“The baby boomers seem to see technology as information and communication,” said Prof. Michael Bugeja, director of the journalism school at Iowa State University and the author of “Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age.” “Their offspring and the emerging generation seem to see the same devices as entertainment and socializing.”…Naturally, there will be many students and no small number of high-tech and progressive-ed apologists ready to lay the blame on boring lessons. One of the great condemnations in education jargon these days, after all, is the “teacher-centered lesson.”
“I’m so tired of that excuse,” said Professor Bugeja, may he live a long and fruitful life. “The idea that subject matter is boring is truly relative. Boring as opposed to what? Buying shoes on eBay? The fact is, we’re not here to entertain. We’re here to stimulate the life of the mind.” “Education requires contemplation,” he continued. “It requires critical thinking. What we may be doing now is training a generation of air-traffic controllers rather than scholars. And I do know I’m going to lose.”
Freedman closes the article with an anecdote:
I am reminded of a story I heard from an Ivy League junior at a social gathering last year. She and a friend walked into the lecture hall for a class and noticed two young men in a back row surfing Internet pornography sites. They called out and waved to alert the professor. He stopped his lecture. He turned his eyes to the young women, those would-be whistle-blowers. And as the pornography show proceeded undetected, he chastised them for interrupting.
I don’t have too much to add to all of this right now. One question that came out of this article was that perhaps we teachers should think of ourselves as entertainers. Do students want a magnetic, entertaining figure with who they could attach themselves, rather than a paradigm of analytical ability who they could emulate? We’ve all seen this, hang around the bar at any professional conference and you will spot the magnetic figure surrounded by emotionally starved (or in my case I was literally starved, I was born emotionally starved so that’s nothing new) grad students (and others) just yearning to identify with the Master. However exaggerated my little example is here, the very idea of this is, shall we say, rather problematic and it returns us to Paco’s initial problem. Given the redefinition of the university from that which is in the business of delivering a liberal arts education to that which is in the business of concerning themselves with the “bottom line,” it would seem to me that teachers have to entertain. Yet, once this happens it shifts and breaks down communication in the classroom. Either we become charismatic leaders to whom students can identify–ummm, nepotism anyone? Or, we try to hammer away at this and teach them to think for themselves and to be critical of what they hear not only from the the broader culture, but also within the University in their courses. Hopefully we won’t produce too too many air traffic controllers…kind of a dream job for me, truth be told.