Thursday, October 23, 2008


This actually happened in my night class yesterday. I was furiously writing notes, as usual, when I looked up because it had gotten very, very quiet in the classroom. The professor had paused his lecture, and instead was standing in the middle of the classroom staring at a fellow student... who was very busily sending text messages. She was appropriately embarrassed when he called the attention of the entire class to her lack of attention to the lecture, but I just can't find it in me to feel too sorry for her. The syllabus included a comment making it painfully clear that electronic communications during class were his biggest pet peeve. The "no texting/chatting" policy was reinforced by his ranting on the topic for several minutes during our first meeting.

Now, this class is boring. No insult to the professor here, he pretty much told us that upfront, on the first night of class. I personally would have been mortified if I'd been in her shoes. But if I had any notion that grad school would involve a more mature group of fellow students than the last time I was in the classroom, that has been swiftly dismissed.

Sadly, this was not the first evidence that dismantled my notion. On the first day of class (a different one,) I had my laptop fired up and ready, planning to put my speedy typing skills to good use taking notes during the lecture. Unfortunately, the first professor I encountered disallows laptop use in class except for homework. Why? Because he got tired of students chatting online and watching the World Series during class using the university's free wifi.


The problem with policies like this is that they encourage students to live down to them. With every ridiculous rule, a student is less motivated to behave responsibly. The people running my high school tried to legislate everything. When there's a published list of the 35 ways you can get detention, is it really any surprise that the students did everything possible not on the list... virtually ensuring that the next edition of the list has 38 things on it?

I know I'm probably too much of an idealist. I know that my perspective, developed over the years since I was last in school, gives me an appreciation for education that many of my fellow students don't have. But I wonder, if not now, when will people be motivated to take responsibility and pay attention?

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