Friday, February 6, 2009

Newsflash: University Hostile to Independent Thought and Radical Action

A friend of mine posted this story on Facebook today. I'm totally with this guy. I know grades poisoned my university experience. And not because I got bad ones. Because I got straight A's and had to keep those grades up to keep my scholarships and I had to keep my scholarships to keep out of debt, which I had to keep out of to keep from becoming indentured indefinitely to an economic agenda I'm none too fond of. Rock. Hard Place. So I chose courses strategically, picking the occasional bird course to lighten the load, rather than taking something that might interest and challenge me more and writing papers I knew would succeed rather than pushing into riskier topics and approaches.

Most profs and administrators are so conditioned by the grading system that they don't even think about this sort of thing. When I was choosing courses for my fourth year at university (a year I was only enrolled in for a piece of paper, not for education per se), I signed up for a couple of 2nd year courses in my major. Even tho the department's guidelines said I could take these courses because I'd fulfilled all the specific requirements for an English degree, I was called in to see the department chair. He advised me not to take those courses because they'd be too easy for me. I told him that was part of why I was taking them. He looked at me like I had two heads. I guess that kind of pragmatism doesn't come naturally to an academic. He had no concept that without grades, those kinds of decisions wouldn't be made.

I hope Denis Rancourt prevails. He sounds like a damn good teacher who, unlike so many profs, has actually given a lot of thought to pedagogy. Which you can see for yourself in this interview.


Finn Harvor said...

Not only does Rancourt have a point of view worth taking seriously, but U of O's response can only be described as hysterical. Fascinating but chilling stuff.

peter darbyshire said...

Interesting subject. Thanks for posting this.

Zachariah Wells said...

My pleasure, Peter. After all, I do specialize in career-limiting moves.

And yes, tho Rancourt is no doubt a royal pain in the arse, having him arrested for trespassing while he's still on salary is a bit crazy.