Thursday, March 11, 2010

Professor, heal thyself!

In recent years, many high schools and colleges have required their students to have laptops. It can save you from hoofing across campus to look up something in an obscure journal before running back before mid-terms begin. But that wasn't good enough for a professor at Georgetown University School of Law.

Cole has banned laptops from his classes, compelling students to take notes the way their parents did: on paper ...

A generation ago, academia embraced the laptop as the most welcome classroom innovation since the ballpoint pen. But during the past decade, it has evolved into a powerful distraction. Wireless Internet connections tempt students away from note-typing to e-mail, blogs, YouTube videos, sports scores, even online gaming — all the diversions of a home computer beamed into the classroom to compete with the professor ...

Okay, fair enough. Sort of. But here's where it breaks down.

Last month, a physics professor at the University of Oklahoma poured liquid nitrogen onto a laptop and then shattered it on the floor, a warning to the digitally distracted. A student — of course — managed to capture the staged theatrics on video and drew a million hits on YouTube.

The aforementioned scene is re-enacted in the first clip. We're including the second clip because it includes a French professor being snotty -- hey, he's French; it's what they do -- and because this idiot obviously didn't bother to ban laptops from his class before destroying a student's property.

There's a bigger problem here, one which some over-educated horse's patootie safely ensconced in an ivory tower is too busy entertaining delusions of grandeur to notice.

It's something I noticed when I was studying at the Art Institute, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it interfered with my course of study. I had several instructors who, by any reasonable standard, did not conduct themselves properly. This manifested itself either through immature behavior, incompetence with respect to the subject matter, or (and this was the most common, especially with adjunct professors) they didn't allow for the students in a matriculated program to complete the overall requirements of the program as part of that class. Many students with whom I studied bore the brunt of make-up work for final portfolio reviews, from academic advisors and department heads with their heads too far up their @$$3$ to put the responsibility where it belonged. After all, solving the problem is hard; making a whipping boy out of a powerless student is easy. And it's such a boon to a pathetically sagging ego.

An academic program is only as good as its faculty. A faculty is only as dedicated as the department head who oversees them. And a department head whose academic dean does not demand the same standard of conduct from the faculty as he does from the students, will go through quite a few department heads.

Laptops are like any other tool that can be abused. Once a school makes a determination to require students to have them, it does not behoove the reputation of that school for an individual professor to get a weed up his @$$ about them, and go postal on student property. What they learn is, that if you have the title, you can be as big a horse's @$$ as you want, and succeed in life. You don't need to accumulate $100K in debt to learn that.

If you really want incoming freshmen to get over their latent high school issues and grow the hell up, you have to show them what "grow the hell up" looks like. They still have to learn that at the Art Institute. So do the cake-eaters in these two videos.

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