Higher EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Do you Love Education But Hate School?

On my Google+ feed the other day, this video came up that grabbed my attention. It’s a spoken word poem by a young man in the UK called “I Will Not Let an Exam Result Decide My Fate.” After being moved by it, I followed it back to his first video which has over 3 million views, “Why I Hate School but Love Education.” I would encourage you to watch both videos for themselves before I spill my thoughts about them below.

Okay, got it? What I got out of this is that one young man has found that college is unsatisfactory for preparation in the real world and that exams (which mean a lot more in the UK educational system then they do in the US system, as I understand it) not only don’t promote good learning but may even hinder someone in their life going forwards, unnecessarily. So, I shared this video on Google+, commenting that as one who is still in the higher ed system (in the US) I still have LOTS of problems with the way kids are taught at K-12 and in higher education. I, too, have seen too many smart people have a tough time in “the system” while finding truly fulfilling and successful educational opportunities once they were finally free of it. I also watch, painfully, as too many of my well-educated friends are struggling with unemployment in what we know is still a tough job market. And yet my generation carries a student loan burden like our predecessors have never seen. In many ways, I feel the system is about to come to a breaking point, and I’d like to be a part of the reform. Okay, I didn’t say all that, but I did express sympathy with the video. I expected to find some agreement from my usual round of commenters, or at least some healthy debate.

Boy, was I wrong.

There’s nothing to single out in particular, except that the general tone of the comments were “oh life sucks, suck it up, you better not fail your tests or you’re really screwed.”  I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed. But maybe by posting it publicly, I’m not targeting the right crowd. Unfortunately, the very generation of people that encouraged, nay, demanded that we go to college in order to succeed in life, didn’t really foresee the situation we’re in now. In fact, there’s even a meme for that, Old Economy Steve. I suspect there’s some of that going on in response to these videos.

But I also think back to my last few years of graduate school, when I was enrolled in a program called “Tomorrow’s Professors Today.” (If you’re a UVa grad student, I HIGHLY recommend it.) We had a discussion/reading group of young TAs ans want-to-be faculty who really cared about education and educational reform. We would discuss ideas on how best to move beyond the lecture format, since even though educational research has pretty much shown over and over that it is a terribly ineffective way of teaching, yet it’s still the standard for so much of higher ed. We discussed techniques for active learning, project-based classrooms, and useful assessment. We even explored some more radical ideas of overhauling the system of higher education that let students be the driver of their class selection and learning, not the universities or departments. As fledgling teachers, we weren’t sure how such a thing could be made to happen, but the ideas were enticing all the same.

So I see a change coming. The new crop of educational-minded faculty are joining their older peers who have long been lonely voices in making the higher ed experience more student-centered. Financially, the whole thing is teetering on a system of student loans that can’t possibly be sustainable in the long term with the way tuitions prices are rising. For better or for worse, systems of lifelong education outside of universities are cropping up, with online classes and MOOCs and UnCollege. And I think that this guy has tapped into all that frustration from the side of the student, and instead of telling him to “deal with it,” maybe we need to listen in to the problems that our educational system are not helping, if not outright causing.

So that’s MY spiel.

What do you think? Am I completely off base, and is this just a whiney kid with no idea of the real world? Or are these legitimate concerns for students? For faculty and administration? Where do you think higher ed is heading in 5, 10, 50 years?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

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Nicole

Nicole

Nicole is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at a small liberal arts college. Her home on the internet can be found at One Astronomer's Noise.

1 Comment

  1. June 27, 2013 at 7:33 am —

    I see two issues at play. One is that people are retiring at a later age and subsequently holding on to their jobs in order to keep the lifestyle they want. This leaves fewer room for career advancements for those just entering into the work force. Second is that college is not the only way to get an education. As an example, IT careers require getting computer certifications, which don’t require that you take a single computer science course. Getting a 4-year degree no longer means there is a job waiting for you and that you will even be qualified for it. We can no longer go to college for the sake of just enjoying learning more stuff.

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