Article by a Former SIUC Grad Student
In my meanderings around the web, I found an article called The True Confessions of a Former Graduate Teaching Assistant, written by Kathleen Hale, a former SIUC grad student.
She’s no fan of our students:
Did I mention we are totally unprepared? But then, so are our students—that is, if one considers basic writing skills or being up-to-date on current events to be a prerequisite for college. Last month I showed my students a documentary outlining 9/11 conspiracy theories, and one of the response papers began as follows: “The movie tries to say that 911 got fishy! Be-cuz we knew the Hispanic hijackers and then how their wasn’t no wingspan imprints when that plane hit the octagon” (my italics). [Hale’s italics, not mine. CO]
On the curve I established for the class (a necessity for most GTA’s because otherwise half our students would fail) this paper received a B-. (Note: said student later attempted to give me a high-five in response to news of Bin Laden being murdered.)
In the fall, this kind of writing would have thrown me into a tailspin. Back then I was fully equipped with a naïve snobbery that compelled me to wave my hands frantically in front of the chalkboard and ask, “WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU EVEN LEARN IN HIGH SCHOOL?” Back then I spent four hours on every class, cried a lot between lesson plans, and didn’t say anything when my students brought their babies to class.
The author also isn’t too fond of our faculty:
At first, these notions stressed me out—I wanted to be a good teacher and was pretty won-over by the school’s apparent mission (“Admissions requirements? Who needs them! Everyone deserves a college education.”). But eventually I picked up on the dismissive attitude of those around me and learned to follow suit.
“They’re sweet, dumb kids. Emphasis on the dumb,” said one professor, describing the undergraduate population. “Do what you can, but don’t overdo it. If you try too hard, you’ll go nuts.”
“Once I brought up Dante and they said ‘What’s a Dante?’” lamented another.
“Try and remember what you came here to do,” a more experienced colleague instructed. “Focus on your own work and don’t get caught up in the teaching.”
Or, as was pointed out at the recent MFA gala, “Congratulations to our third year graduates! You’ve all dealt with some of the worst students in the world, and survived.”
If this is really how the faculty at SIUC see the students, the university’s problems are worse than I realized. If the students really are this bad, then SIUC is finished.
When I read the article, I knew instantly that the university she calls SFCI (state funded college in Illinois) was in fact SIUC. A quick search of SIUC’s people finder confirmed my suspicions. Since she’s left the university, I captured a screenshot, included below for any doubters (click the image for a larger version):
The author acknowledges her own privilege – she went to Harvard for undergrad. I’m sure that experience colors her view of the students who attend SIUC. I don’t know if there is anything that can excuse the behavior of the professors, assuming the author describes them honestly.
I’ll also note that she uses two student’s real names in the article, which seemed unwise. I would have left the student’s names out. I checked the people finder, though, and they are real students.
I realize this post is a little light on commentary, but I’m a little demoralized. I think that was the author’s point.
It’s worth reading the whole article, which you can find here.
Comments are welcome.