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Sat May 16, 2015, 11:17 PM

Message to My Freshman Students

By Keith M. Parsons
Philosopher, historian, author; Professor of Philosophy at University of Houston-Clear Lake

For the first time in many years I am teaching a freshman course, Introduction to Philosophy. The experience has been mostly good. I had been told that my freshman students would be apathetic, incurious, inattentive, unresponsive and frequently absent, and that they would exude an insufferable sense of entitlement. I am happy to say that this characterization was not true of most students. Still, some students are often absent, and others, even when present, are distracted or disengaged. Some have had to be cautioned that class is not their social hour and others reminded not to send text messages in class. I have had to tell these students that, unlike high school, they will not be sent to detention if they are found in the hall without a pass, and that they are free to leave if they are not interested. Actually, I doubt that the differences between high school and university have ever been adequately explained to them, so, on the first class day of next term, I will address my new freshmen as follows:

Welcome to higher education! If you want to be successful here you need to know a few things about how this place works. One of the main things you need to know is the difference between the instructors you will have here and those you had before. Let me take a few minutes to explain this to you.

First, I am your professor, not your teacher. There is a difference. Up to now your instruction has been in the hands of teachers, and a teacher's job is to make sure that you learn. Teachers are evaluated on the basis of learning outcomes, generally as measured by standardized tests. If you don't learn, then your teacher is blamed. However, things are very different for a university professor. It is no part of my job to make you learn. At university, learning is your job -- and yours alone. My job is to lead you to the fountain of knowledge. Whether you drink deeply or only gargle is entirely up to you.

Your teachers were held responsible if you failed, and expected to show that they had tried hard to avoid that dreaded result. I am not held responsible for your failures. On the contrary, I get paid the same whether you get an "F" or an "A." My dean will not call me in and ask how many conferences I had with your parents about your progress. Indeed, since you are now an adult, providing such information to your parents would be an illegal breach of privacy. Neither will I have to document how often I offered you tutoring or extra credit assignments. I have no obligation whatsoever to make sure that you pass or make any particular grade at all.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/keith-m-parsons/message-to-my-freshman-st_b_7275016.html

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Reply Message to My Freshman Students (Original post)
TexasTowelie May 2015 OP
yeoman6987 May 2015 #1
Igel May 2015 #3
yeoman6987 May 2015 #4
3catwoman3 May 2015 #2

Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Sat May 16, 2015, 11:25 PM

1. At FSU and George Washington, I never had a teacher


Be so nonchalant about a class and quite frankly I am glad. I had professors who cared and wanted to be in the auditorium, lab or classroom. I hope this professor doesn't last long.

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #1)

Sun May 17, 2015, 08:00 AM

3. It's clear to me that this professor does want to be in that class.

And wants to help students learn. I don't see the non-chalantness in this announcement. I see a teacher telling students that the ball is entirely in their court and if they don't pick it up he's not going to.

They're not his wards or possessions, and he will provide knowledge and help. He will not compel, entice, wheedle, cajole, or otherwise waste his time trying to get students who don't want to be there to be there. He is not primarily the agent of a credentialing agency, nor does he work for a test-prep agency. The motivation comes not from him, but from the students.

He's probably better suited to teaching majors and upper-classmen, after all the slackers and students whose sole motivation in taking his course is to check off a box some place are weeded out. On the other hand, he's more likely going to have a course in which the top 50% or 75% can learn more than a prof who's really concerned about validating the bottom 15% in his class. Gen ed requirements are a great thing, for some students. For others they just highlight the difficulty of getting a piece of paper that they foolishly think guarantees them a job and advancement. (Which is precisely the point of all the "college doesn't really help you" banter from perhaps 5 years ago--it does, but only if you learn. If you get a piece of paper, it doesn't help you nearly as much as if you get a piece of paper *and* learn.)

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Response to Igel (Reply #3)

Sun May 17, 2015, 09:06 AM

4. Since its sociology and pretty much an easy "A", I guess you are right


I took it as an elective and helped to maintain a good GPA. I took most "ology's" as electives knowing they are the easiest classes. So I guess this professor want at least a little effort in the easiest classes on campus.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Sun May 17, 2015, 12:07 AM

2. Whether you drink deeply...

...or only gargle is entirely up to you.

I love that!

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