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Conversations: What's wrong with students today?

By Haley Goldberg, Magazine Editor
Published February 12, 2013

Of all this, we’re so smart and we’ve got all this technology and it’s still about rubbing shoulders.

BC: Yeah, because I’m getting excited just by your body language, and your tone of voice and I can sense the vibration — I know this sounds really, almost metaphysical in kind of a silly way — but there’s something to be said for that excitement that can only take place through direct interaction.

ES: The in-word now is teachers don’t scale. And that’s a code word … that means, teachers don’t scale, so get rid of them. Because there’s not enough of them to handle the millions. That’s frightening. We’re on the record: I believe in five years Eastern Michigan University, Northern Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University — are gone. Five years. They’re gone. The economics are going to dictate it. There might be some programs that they’re keeping, but I think in general those institutions are gone. Because of the costs, the simple costs. But there’s a loss, there’s going to be a loss.

BC: Horrendous. I mean, if that’s true, that’s a horrendous loss, an incalculable loss.

ES: It’s going to happen. I think it’s absolutely inevitable.

BC: What a cheery note.

ES: But we gotta do something though. Because the kids are going to get their education online and they’re going to pay $3,000 instead of $30,000 — because that’s what’s going to happen — but then what we’re talking about and the rubbing of the shoulders, how are we going to get the rubbing of the shoulders?

BC: I don’t see how it could be done because what you’re talking about is the difference between teaching somebody how to make a living as opposed to how to live … learning the facts is easy, but learning how to change as those facts change … literally learning how to live, that can’t ever be taught (online). It’s a difference in two literal types of learning: learning how to make a living and learning how to live.

BC: I think that you can teach any subject in a way that it relates directly to the student … If you’re not making your classes about the students — regardless of what you’re teaching — then you’re failing as a teacher.

ES: It’s all about them. It is about them. It’s right … I mean, the stuff is the stuff.

BC: That’s the perfect way of putting it. The stuff is the stuff, but the class is ultimately about them, what are they going to do with this, how are they going to understand it, breath, live it, eat it, sleep it, understand what it does and why it does what it needs to do.

ES: But we’re more comfortable, I think most of us (teachers), with the stuff.

BC: Because the other part is taking a risk. And there you go back to the original statement. You said the students aren’t risk-takers, maybe we, as teachers, need to be more risk-takers.

ES: That’s good. That’s good. We’re playing it safe, that’s really right. We’re teaching stuff and we’re not teaching about them. It’s a risk, you’re putting yourself out in a funny way. And you don’t want to do that, it’s too much of a risk. You’re right, we’re not modeling risk-taking. In the research world, I feel like I’m modeling it more, because I’ll fail. But in the classroom maybe we’re not taking risks … You have to fail, or else you’re not taking enough of a risk. You can’t be successful all the time. Nobody’s successful all the time.


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