Teacher or Snowflake

I am an A student and that is an A paper, and always will be to me. I read some of the other students papers, and to me they were nonsense written to fill pages. I will apologize for this email if you can produce one paper written for this assignment that can come close to competing with the ideas in my paper. I can only dream of having someone like Bill Gates give me advice for this situation. But I will still go on to follow the path that God has paved for me regardless of your opinion, because I already had the guideness I needed to help me visualize my purpose. I want my grade changed, and I am sorry if I offend you by this email, but I put my heart and sole into my education and I believe in myself even if you don’t.

The Status of Higher Education in 2010? An Empty Bottle of Jack Daniels and the Greatest Student Email Ever Written, Chauncey DeVega

It’s funny how these things go in cycles; perhaps mid-term (for traditional teachers) is the season for discontent. Or maybe it’s the last little taste of the foul moods of a long winter. But after I wrote my complaint about “snowflakes” I found this piece, which seems to express the same sentiments. I have mixed feelings about these sorts of critiques. On the one hand, I do think that the ideals of education has been denatured. Maybe it was never as real as I imagined, but I think that education used to represent a profound existential challenge, willingly taken on by students who by necessity had to trust their professors.

I didn’t like all of my professors, by any means, and one main reason is too often they were not particularly challenging, at least in the ways that I wanted to be challenged (in my admittedly naive way). However inchoate, I was looking for transformative experiences, and when I found professors that seemed to offer it, I knew instinctively that I had to believe that my guide had, in the end, my best interests in mind, even when they seemed to be saying things that I did not like, or asking me to do things that, at least in the short run, I did not want to do. I had a kind of faith in teachers. That’s rarer now.

On the other hand, I think the erosion of that faith is our own fault as educators. I think the problem is not so much in what happens in the classroom, or in the written conversations about writing that is at the heart of my own work, but in the broader context of education. It’s the giant athletic programs with their fetishistic obsessions with youth and physical strength; it’s the endless marketing of “school brands”; the cynical exploitation of the student loan system; the ongoing attacks on teaching and teachers; the manipulation of anti-intellectualism of both political parties, but especially the right. We don’t fight back effectively.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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