(Blum) I Love Learning, I Hate School: An Anthropology of College

Students are not isolated, disembodied minds; they have significant needs as embodied social beings. Humans seek, and find, meaning somehow. It is up to the faculty to see that they find it in their classes, too.  But do we need college, tuition, and credits for all this?

12 thoughts on “(Blum) I Love Learning, I Hate School: An Anthropology of College

  1. I do not fully agree that it is up to the faculty to see that students find meaning in their classes – though the hope is that an instructor can provide an experience that elicits a sense of meaning in their students. Students need to play an active role in their search for meaning. Students without the desire/motivation to be in class (i.e. general education courses) put instructors at a great disadvantage. The same is true of instructors – if they do not have the desire/motivation to continually evolve, create relevant connections to the material, and find meaning in their work, then they are putting the students at a great disadvantage.

    I do not think college is necessary for a person to find meaning in life. However, there are many aspects of college that can help students find a path that encourages what they perceive to be ‘meaningful’ existence in society. A college diploma serves as a stepping stone to careers that may be out of reach to those without a degree, but it is in no way the ‘Holy Grail’ of a meaningful life.

    • Ro, thank you so very much for your insight! I couldn’t agree more with your response. There is so much to consider when talking about “finding meaning” within the higher educational experience. How truly can a student find meaning within a course that she/he is not interested in or will never apply to the real world? I also definitely agree with your comment on the need for both (faculty and students) to put their best foot forward in order to make the process of learning and teaching most effective.

    • I agree with you Ro. I think like so many things in life, higher education is as much about what you put into it as it is about what is offered. If one is determined, one can graduate from very good schools without learning much of anything. I have met these people. They put the bare minimum into their college experience and that’s what they got out of it.

    • I agree with you, Ro! People get out what they put in. If someone wants the education and knowledge that Higher Ed can offer, they are going to go after it. Same goes for trades and technical education. In the end though, none of this is truly necessary. Even if traditional learning in Higher Ed or trades/technical education isn’t being done, I believe that people are continually learning and gaining knowledge from each other. People never stop learning and whether people embrace it or not, we as a people really are all lifelong learners. I

  2. I do believe that faculty members bear much weight on their shoulders. They are responsible for not only delivering accurate and reliable content, but they must do so in a way which successfully addresses the needs of each and every student in their classroom – which to many may seem to be an impossible task to achieve considering the emphasis placed on grades, exam scores and success rates.

    If the intent of education is to find meaning and a sense of self, then faculty must connect with their students beyond the day’s planned lecture. As much research has shown, faculty who provide a positive, encouraging and supportive environment within their classroom while also actively engaging students with the content, achieve greater student learning and success. However, I also wholeheartedly believe that this is a two-way relationship. In other words, students must be ready to connect the dots and find personal meaning from their educational experience.

    • Ruby, I really responded to your vision of the college experience as a sort of 24/7, 360 environment that extends beyond the classroom. For so many students college is about finding new ways to interact with the world and discovering what sort of people they want to become. Honoring this part od the college experience means asking a great deal of students, faculty, and staff, but I think in the long run supporting student growth outside of the classroom will improve the university experience and the graduates coming out of colleges.

  3. Systems within society can be as much about organization and order as their particular outcome goals. In the United States, college has in some ways become a way for young adults to practice at adult systems in an environment where they are expected to be more than children, but less than grown up. As such, a college environment is as much about what kind of person you will become as it is about mastering classes. Do we need college and tuition and classes to achieve this part of the higher education experience? No. Many people grow up to be intelligent, thoughtful, respectful, and productive members of society without ever stepping foot in a university classroom. However, I do think there is value to an institution that is so forthright about its dedication to intellectual and spiritual growth. While these things can happen outside of a university, a university specifically tasks itself with these goals and therefor pays special attention to them. It is not an accident that most college students question and push back against ideas and social norms that they have been raised with. Universities encourage and often require this sort of critique. While many people would develop the ability to critically examine information and social norms on their own, some individuals are not as naturally inclined to this sort of thinking. Universities are a place where a wide range of individuals from different backgrounds can come together and examine ideas in a way that few other places in our society currently offer. Do we need an accountability system that involves grades and credits to achieve the goals of a university? I have no idea. The part of me that is not inclined to competition and questions its overall value, wonders if some of the ways that we evaluate progress and completion in education could be reevaluated, but I do not yet feel confident in offering an alternative.

  4. This is very much in-line with my response to the other prompt. No, I don’t think we need college, tuition, and credits for learning to happen. However, I do think Higher Ed allows students better access and a myriad of opportunities to learn and gain knowledge. That is why these institutions are so valuable and so very important to a society. You can gain learning and understanding in many different places, including those outside of Higher Ed. All that said, I think that the concentration of opportunities for students to learn and gain knowledge is far greater at a university in Higher Ed when compared to anywhere else—especially when we are talking about the target demographic of impressionable youths.

  5. I think about this a lot. As a P-12 teacher, it is my job as a teacher to be creative and teach in a way that is engaging to my students and meets all of their needs. I wonder what that would look like in higher education if professors and lecturers were tasked to do the same thing. I think it would be a lot easier to do so in higher education because of the freedom that is given to professors.

    To answer the next part of the prompt, no I do not think it is solely up to the faculty to help students find it in their classes. However, I do think that classrooms should be treated as learning communities where students and faculty are learning from each other and bouncing information around to each other and that is up to the faculty to set that tone for the whole class.

  6. I think that higher education is about a lot more than just credits and tuition. I also believe that faculty members have a great responsibility to help students through a discovery stage of their learning experiences. I believe that learning is a two-way street and can happen anywhere. I also think, that when faculty incorporate self reflection into their curriculum it gives students skill to be able to continue to learn and grown on their own, after college.

    I do not think that it is the sole responsibility of the faculty member to help students find their path in the classroom because I think that journey looks different for all students.

    • I agree with your emphasis on self reflection, Amanda. Self reflection papers are not easy for me to write and I have struggled with them each semester in the EdD, but I have also found them to be a helpful exercise. Without them I do not think I would be able to look back at each semester with as much clarity.

  7. Tuition and class credits serve as a way to sort and classify students. At the end of the college experience credits indicate a student has successfully completed participation in a series of topics successfully. Until tuition is publicly funded it is another form of classifying individuals, those who have access and those that don’t.

    I see the role of faculty is to impart their knowledge and passion about the topic the teach and conduct research in. To guide students to think critically and give them the tools and strategies that allow them to understand research, navigate opposing positions with respect, and when they are curious about a topic or issue they have the framework of how to approach this curiosity.

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