RARA-AVIS: College Finale (Hopefully)

From: pabergin ( pabergin@gte.net)
Date: 28 Aug 2000

My tone in my previous post was intemperate and inflammatory. You'll have to forgive me for that. Or not. I don't really care.

I'd just come from the house of a friend with four or five published novels who can't get a job teaching writing because he has but a BA. Then I saw this plea for a reading list from someone who obviously doesn't know what he is supposed to teach and is asking perfect strangers to give him ideas. Probably a PhD.

Get this.

One guy (my friend) has already proved both his expertise, capability and marketability, and can't get a U job passing that knowledge along. The other doesn't know enough about his subject area to limp along on his own hoof without asking the opinion of people whose credentials are a total mystery to him.

Am I the only one who thinks there's something wrong here? Or does PC override honesty on R-A?

I am, happily and without apology, the product of a traditional education
(private school and private university -- yes, I know that I am fortunate, perhaps even blessed; I make no apologies for that, either). My professors were actually proficient, and often expert, in their disciplines. Several close friends who attended public universities at the same time possess intellects that frighten me with their acuity. So this ain't a private/public thing. It's a teaching thing. We got taught. So many today do not.

This nonsense about "the professor learning along with his students" is just that. Nonsense. No, let's be honest. It's bullshit. That's a study group, not an education. You want to pay 25K per semester to play around in a study group, that's cool. It's your money and you can waste it any way you like. Just don't try to sell me the idea that it's education. It isn't. It's a circle jerk.

"Higher" education in the US these days is turning ever more into nothing more than a refuge for graduate students who lack either the will or the skills to take their act into the streets, i.e. make an honest living. It's easier to ride the degree into tenure with classroom longevity and the occasional article in such cutting-edge and relevant mags as PMLA. Chardonnay & chitchat. Life without relevance, focus or value, I calls it.

Now, maybe I'm wrong. It's happened before. But when I read an article in the NY Times (it was 3 or 4 years ago - try a web search) that nearly 50% of the English teachers in the NY public school system are functionally illiterate, I got to wonder about the quality of their instruction. Like the guys teaching them all that stuff? Like maybe a class on noir? Rather than on, maybe, remedial reading?

I wonder how many of THEIR teachers gathered their course materials from strangers.

Rather than work, research and genuine scholarship.

I have grandchildren. The battle against despair is constant. PB

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