Facebook, College Education and Commentary ….

I made it an unofficial policy to never “friend” current undergraduate students who are still attending my university. I do this to establish and keep some distance; after all I blow off steam, vent on occasion and yes, I sometimes post….well, stuff I only want people who know me to see.

So, I have some distance between my current students and myself.

But I have a wide variety of friends on facebook; the vast majority do NOT have Ph. D.’s or even masters degrees. Most have degrees but a few don’t; in fact a few are currently taking undergraduate classes. They are doing this for a variety of reasons; some have a degree in one area and are working to switch areas; others are going back to school for the first time, and a few are seeking professional certification. All are worthy things to do.

But, well, these people sometimes write about what they are doing and what they are feeling. Some are the usual gripes about hating to write papers. I get that feeling; for example I enjoy mathematical research but really don’t enjoy writing my results for publication. It is a time consuming pain-in-the-butt…but it is necessary.

And if a referee/editor is going to take the time to review my work, I owe him/her a professional caliber effort.

So, I really don’t mind the “I don’t wanna do this” griping since most of my friends end up doing it anyway.

More disturbing is some of the attitudes that I read; for example I read the case of someone saying “I belong to religion X and therefore don’t accept science fact Y….I wonder what my professor will think of my paper…”

Reading this makes me:
1. Grateful that I am teaching mathematics; at least I’ve never had a student tell me that “my religion tells me that \frac{d}{dx}sin(x) = -cos(x) so you should give me credit. I admit that in probability class I do explain topics like this one: (confusing the geometric distribution with the negative binomial one) and mention how this applies to the mathematics of natural selection.

2. Makes me realize that what many students want is NOT to be educated; instead what they seek is a credential; that “piece of paper”. They are utterly clueless that, during the process of obtaining that “piece of paper”, that some sort of intellectual change/transformation should be taking place. At the end of a course of study, the student should not only KNOW MORE than he/she did prior to taking the course, their way of thinking should also be altered.

If someone enters a class already “knowing what they know”, why take the class? (I know: because it is part of a curriculum that leads to a credential).

Still, I have some sympathy. Lots of times, that credential is the way up for some and lots of times, one’s place in society is, in large part, dependent on whether someone remains locked in one world view or another (say, remains a part of a church or a local social group/family in which certain views are approved; others are disapproved.)

My situation: the way I see it, many of my ancestors had to leave family, friends and old ancestors behind just to arrive at this country. Hence it really isn’t asking too much of me to leave old ideas behind, whatever the “cost”. But that is me, in my current life situation with my life history, job opportunities, etc. It may be different for others.

Now off to lift weights, jog a little, and grade final exams.


December 10, 2012 - Posted by | education, Friends, social/political | ,

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