Friday, May 22, 2015

Beating a Dead Horse: The Student Disengagement Myth & Real-Life Impact

Just to poke Mark Bauerline with a stick one more time:

As my friend Steve Saideman pointed out in his response to Bauerline's piece, the argument relies largely on "anecdata" - individual observations (why aren't there students lined up in the hall of the English department at UCLA?) that may or may not mean anything. When you stoop to that level of argument, someone else's anecdata can be just as good as yours, maybe better.

So here are a couple of data points that contradict Bauerline's assertion that "professors don't matter anymore". Both are related to the recent retirement of a colleague who had served my institution for 30 years:

• A group of students organized a retirement party for said professor. Attendance was standing room only, probably 60-80 people there. One student drove from Virginia Beach to Dayton, OH just to be at that event - because this professor had meant that much to his career.

• At a subsequent retirement dinner, three recent graduates (two of them grown men) broke down in tears as they recalled the impact which my colleague had on their lives. Their paeans to her accomplishments went far beyond "got me a job" to her impact on their lives and their character - those in pursuit of mere employment don't cry about it in public.

Bauerline laments that professors are no longer "moral authorities" but have been reduced to "accreditors". My colleague's retirement, and reflections on her entire 30-year career (up to and including this past year) are a ringing indictment of his sweeping statement.

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