Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Another old German professor complains about young students

The blogster loves it when old academics complain about the current generation of high school and college students. A fun, easy blog post by the K-Landnews is always ensured.

Remember, even low hanging fruit can be deliciously sweet and nourishing.

Today's trigger is an article in Frankfurter Allgemeine, "University freshmen - inadequate reading skills and shirking responsibility" [our translation of Studienanfänger - leseschwach und verantwortungsscheu]

Two paragraphs into the article, the blogster was certain: penned by an old guy. Or, if you want to be politically correct: by a mature tenured academic. Most likely by someone from the liberal arts or jurisprudence.

Quick search engine check: yes, old guy, born in 1958, professor of Theology. Two out of two. Better note this in the post because it doesn't happen all the time.

The theologian claims there are three problems with the students who are getting ready for the upcoming summer semester.

Three, hm.

Emotional response: oh, Jesus.

Intellectual response: three is an extremely common number in discourse, three examples, three hypotheses, and so forth.

How the professor arrived at his three is rather irrelevant, so let's look at them.

1) Fundamentally weak reading skills
2) Desperate need for comprehension
3) Strategy of shirking responsibility

Note how he chose enhancements for his list. Reading skills are not just weak, but fundamentally so (elementar in German). A simple need to comprehend does not suffice, it is a desperate need, and not wanting responsibility is strategic in nature.

At this point, the reader is only one paragraph into the article, and - if not for being slightly bored - there wouldn't have been much reason to continue in search for some positive words about today's German students.

How do the three claims manifest, according to the professor?

He takes a long paragraph to get to the point: many first semester students have problems with long, complex texts. To drive it home, he says "officially, the ability to read complex texts is still a fundamental prerequisite in science". He, of course, relishes the wandering and meandering through "demanding textual landscapes".

And out of this inadequate skill set arises as a form of "over compensation" his alleged observation "desperate for comprehension".

Let's take our comment down to high school break level: Hell yeah, if you can't make out any sense of a convoluted text and get graded on it, would you experience a 'happy need to comprehend'? Isn't it, like, your job, to guide students?

His teaching philosophy? "Fear, feeling powerless, and disappointment are unpleasant but, from a didactic point, not bad. Because the modern complex world means you have to able to (not) understand others well."


No, the blogster doesn't want to elaborate on the third issue, shirking away from responsibility. There is only so much to say.

The disappointment of liberal arts teachers who love their subject matter and are being told point blank by the business student or the STEM undergrad that the beloved English poet is not a priority, well, it is understandable.

But as a theologian with so little respect and understanding, you might be better of teaching students to simply pray they'll make it in the world.

If I'm not mistaken, Socrates complained about the youth of his time, too. If it wasn't Socrates, then someone else, give or take a thousand years.

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