(Quick Disclaimer: I bet you’re all wondering, “Why the fuck is a nude model ranting on academia and how the hell does she know a damn thing about it?” I’ve been dating and living with a man for 5 years who has finished a Juris Doctorate and a Master’s Degree in my presence. My too-intelligent-for-his-own-good boyfriend has now decided to take on his PhD, and I have thus been lead onto the sidelines of another 4 years of politics and policies. It’s about damn time an outsider with perspective wrote about what really goes on in an industry that is just as wonderful and flawed as any other (but refuses to admit the latter).)
Complaint About The Academic Industry #1: Attitudes of Graduate/PhD Student Instructors Towards Undergrad Pupils
I have sat in on many a Masters/PhD student dinner with several different groups of individuals. Work is usually what is on the mind of any given graduate student at any given point throughout the day, all the way from morning coffee to happy hour. Although this is not the rule at every university, many upper classmen choose to teach a class and work as an assistant instructor in lieu of paying more tuition. The opinion of undergrads by those higher on the academic ladder leads to a general consensus: undergrads suck. I won’t deny the facts: many undergrads are lazy, uninterested, and inexperienced in the type of commitment it takes to pass college courses with more than a C average, but notice that I said “many,” not “all.” During my time as the lower life form know as a student on the road to a Bachelor’s Degree, I took notes, studied enough to complete exams with acceptable, beyond-just-passing grades, and stayed engaged in my work well enough to earn at least a B average in most of my classes. Am I, or were I ever, a type-A perfectionist yearning for the highest marks on every assignment? Not even close. But I certainly was not a bane to my instructors, and I definitely do not count myself amongst the students which made my higher-educated pals tear out their hair.
The point I’m attempting to make is this: Graduate and PhD student teachers need to take a look in the mirror before turning it to face their pupils. The amount of comments made towards the utterly disgusting creature that is the undergrad is inversely proportional to the amount of questions asked of one’s own ability to coherently teach material, engage students, and judge his or her capability to do well at both. Some students are autodidactic; others need a good instructor to lead the way. As one who has always counted herself amongst the latter category, I have been taught by the good, the bad, and the ugly. My grades are not just indicative of my ability to comprehend and internalize, but the ability of the one who lectured on the material to explain it in a way that makes sense. In short, if I have a great teacher, I’ll receive As across the board. If I have a fairly atrocious teacher, my grades suffer greatly.
From those that I have met, most graduate-level instructors place all of the blame on their horrible students and none of the blame on themselves. I’ve always found it odd that a group of individuals so dead-set on being informed and educated are able to ask questions of everyone and everything except their own teaching abilities, which will someday form the backbone of their career. Instead of wondering why undergraduates are so stupid and lazy, Grad and PhD instructors need to self-examine how much of those bad attitudes and grades are a product of their own creation. It’s easy to place the blame on those who are younger and lacking experience in higher academics. The difficulty is in asking oneself if the finger needs to be pointed in the other direction.
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