In 1974, I went off to college. What did I know? Pretty much nothing. I suspect that freshman today are primarily concerned, as I was, with the huge changes in their lives. I went along to football games with my new friends, even though I didn't really care about football, because it was great to be part of a group.
What thrilled me was the BAND and the amazing back-bending, high-striding, baton-flinging guy in the tall bearskin hat.
In a week I will begin teaching a freshman seminar, and I thought I'd try to imagine what it feels like to begin college today, in 2006. Probably my students are as blissfully unaware as I was of the Big Picture, and just likely to be more interested in the latest hit song or teen styles (I wore some stylin' elephant pants and super-groovy platform shoes), and fitting in. One of my goals is to help them feel more connected to their learning than I was. Are there any special ways to do this that I don't already do with my older, more experienced students? It's entertaining to read the Beloit College MindSet List for the Class of 2010, but it's also sobering to read some of the more vitriolic comments responding to the publication of My Freshman Year by Cathy Small/Rebekah Nathan. I'm not sure which is worse, the students who dismiss professors as chumps, the professors who dismiss students as lazy drunks, the non-academics who dismiss university life as "not real life," etc. I know I have something valuable to offer my students, and I'm humble enough to know that I'll need to work hard to face the special challenge of connecting with freshman in a meaningful way.
The author of this new book What's Liberal About Liberal Education? Classroom Politics and "Bias" in Higher Eductation available for purchase from the publisher, Norton, warns us that some people think that we perfessers are out to indoctrinate the youth of today. Oh, if it were only that easy!