The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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We don’t want no education

On My Way Out There
 We dont want no education
We don’t want no education

We don’t want no education

Student attitude toward college seems to have changed significantly in the past century, and perhaps not for the better.

During the late ’60s, some universities saw picketing and protests from students who had increasingly begun to recognize that they had virtually no input at all into any rules, policies or decisions regarding their academic or social lives. This attitude is reflected best in the lyrics of a song written by topical folk singer Phil Ochs:

“I am just a student, sir, and I only want to learn / But it’s hard to read through the rising smoke from the books that you like to burn / So I’d like to make a promise and I’d like to make a vow / That when I’ve got something to say, sir, I’m gonna say it now.”

Nowadays, the administration and faculty at universities is often more left-leaning than the students. However, the attitude toward college has also changed, and begun to more closely reflect the mantra stated in Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”: “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.”

Today, enrollment at universities, especially at SMU, has reached record numbers. Currently there are 10,064 students at SMU.

There are many reasons why enrollment is so high, not the least of which is the current U.S. economy and job market. More and more people are returning to school to receive their bachelor’s degrees, or staying in college because of the lack of high-paying jobs for recent college graduates.

The competition in the current job market means that those applying for jobs without a college degree will likely find themselves bussing tables for the rest of their lives. Most jobs, especially in the sciences, are increasingly looking for applicants with graduate degree. Those in the teaching profession especially are expected to have college-level certification and graduate degrees.

Yet despite the numbers of people applying for college the desire on the part of students to put forth much of an effort to learn continues to dwindle. Even in classes where attendance is required, students won’t show up if they feel the effort isn’t worth it.

I’ve heard students complain that professors “shouldn’t require students to show up in class if they’re doing the work.” I’ve been in classes where handfuls of students have shown up visibly stoned, disrupting lectures with giggling and gossip. I’ve had friends who have complained that they can’t sit through a class without smoking marijuana first. Surely this is the type of behavior that should have been left behind in high school?

During a conference held last spring, between Dedman College Dean Jasper Neel and some 20 interested students, I learned something interesting – something that I should have already known but, nevertheless, didn’t. The conference was called in protest over the fate of Rhetoric lecturers, some of whom would be let go after seven years unless they chose to pursue the tenure track. According to Neel, this is a research institution. The primary job of lecturers and professors is to research, not to teach students – and if students want a teaching university, there are plenty of other places they can go.

According to Neel, success at this university depends on the student actively approaching the professor for knowledge, not on the professor trying to impart his knowledge on the students. I, like several other students, became so dismayed at being told this (after three years of attending SMU) and was ready to suggest the words “research institution” be printed in bold red letters on all of SMU’s recruiting materials.

But, of course, whether SMU or any other university is a “research institution” isn’t the point. We’ve become too willing to sit back and let the education come to us. Perhaps we expect professors like those in Dead Poet’s Society and the Emperor’s Club to jump on the desks and enthuse us with learning.

Either because of how the atmosphere of universities has relaxed in the last 40 years or because of our passive, television-centered culture, we’ve lost the desire to approach learning as an active experience.

Perhaps this is the fault of universities overfilling incoming classes with students without imposing more stringent standards of the past. This is certainly the case at SMU, where faculty senate reports have revealed the need to increase the size of the freshman class to pay for construction bills and payrolls.

Perhaps this is the fault of society inevitably pushing children into universities and college straight out of high school. It is often better for students to attend college later in their lives, when they are less naive about the workings of the world and more interested in augmenting what they already know with new knowledge.

Whatever the case, a college degree is meaningless if it’s gained without the full participation and interest of the student it’s given to.

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