During my college career I’ve had the good fortune to be taught by a number of high quality professors. Some were very well versed in their respective fields and could impart to their students a continued interest in the subject. Some were zany, eccentric characters, altogether compelling and inspiring in their devotion to their areas of expertise. One or two were simply laid-back and fun to study under. Indeed, all education – when approached in a positive manner – can be enjoyable. Over the last three years, however, I’ve perceived what appears to be a recurring problem with university-level schooling: impersonality.
This significant fault in the educational system may be attributed, in part, to ever-increasing class sizes and the ready adaptation we must make to new technologies. With regard to class size, I’ve taken many university-level courses with a register of well over one hundred students (the largest class I ever took was packed with some 250). Someone I used to go to high school with told me that he actually had an intro class with an enrollment of 650 students.
Surely, we can all agree that developing a rapport with one’s instructor is an important part of the learning process. It gives the student a better understanding of what the instructor want from pupils and of how and why they use the methods that they use. With a 100-plus-size class, however, such relationships are impossible. How can students hope to become even somewhat acquainted with their professor when, say, 300 of their fellow classmates are all clamoring for his attention? They can’t. And so everyone enrolled in that course is deprived of the greater clarity offered by a personal relationship.
The other element (technology) is perhaps more to blame for this distancing of teacher from student than even the largest class sizes. Through email and the Internet, it became conceivable (and soon preferable) for a professor to forego direct contact with his students. All he has to do now is click on his email link and indifferently type a few words onto a monitor. With that, his job is done. He has imparted something lasting, instilled an intangible greatness. The funny thing is, universities actually seem to encourage such aloof methods of communication. And so, once again, the student suffers.
Yes, in this discussion I am primarily referencing introductory classes. And yes, those are most common in the early part of an undergraduate curriculum. Indeed, it might sound as if I’m being willfully ignorant of the tough situation facing schools these days. State colleges are confronted with the daunting task of educating tens of thousands of students each year, as well as conforming to a shape-shifting technological landscape so as to remain competitive with other institutions.
In fact, our very culture is an ever-changing one which at times demands that we adapt to new ways of doing things. The population rises by the minute. Newfangled technologies emerge and reshape how (and how much) we interact with one another. In short, the world is in a whirlpool… and the whirlpool’s speeding up. Sometimes we’re dawdling with the current, other times we’re fighting just to catch our breath.
But regardless of how some of our needs may change, others remain constant. And one of them just so happens to be a quality education. Without this, we will soon see future generations lacking the desire to attain further knowledge. We will come to find them doing little more than trudging through a system so “efficient” that it strips them of their aspirations and individuality. It’s imperative that we take personal instruction off the chopping block before it is sacrificed in the name of mere expedience.