Monday, January 2, 2006

Welcome to Idaho State University

There are several things that annoy me. Christmas music. Malls. Those stupid little subscription cards in magazines that make the pages hard to turn. Jewelry. Not being able to remember how Warren G. Harding died or where. The sound of Eric Clapton's voice, yet the belief that he can write and play music better than almost anyone I have ever heard. Cuba. People who talk a lot about things they really don't understand. Richard Nixon. The list really could go on. But today my number one annoyance is inconsiderate students. This began on the Wednesday before finals week when a professor lectured on the significance of Pearl Harbor to an upper-division class at ISU. It continues today. I can't seem to let it go.

The morning after the Pearl Harbor lecture, I sat and listened to my fellow classmates criticize two of my teachers before my class began. They ripped apart the teaching style and partisan nature of one of my teachers and continued to express their irritation with the teacher who boldly taught the lessons of Pearl Harbor two class periods before the final exam. I just sat there. I didn't say a word. I thought it wasn't my battle, nor my business, but right now I know I should have said something. I wish I would have said something. I am not one to regret things. I think you make mistakes and you live with them, but when I pass up an opportunity to state my place on something, an issue that really deserves my opinion, I always regret it. I regret not saying that on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor we sure as hell better be talking about it in a Political Science course relating to foreign policy.

That Wednesday it wasn't just about Pearl Harbor. We talked about Iraq. We talked about mistakes. I watched an ROTC student walk right out of the classroom. Yet, when it was all over I wasn't for a second disappointed in how I had spent that fifty minutes, nor was I offended by what that instructor had to say. There are lessons we need to learn, things we should know, things only those who have gone before us can teach us.

I am so disgusted with students who think the teacher is there to push a particular ideology. I can guarantee that the two instructors in question, that my classmates so openly criticized that morning, have no agenda. They are there because they love to teach. There must be a hundred other jobs they could have had, other schools, other professions, and yet they are here at Idaho State because they feel they can make a difference in the lives of college students and because they love the course material they teach.

ISU is perplexing to me. Located in one of the most liberal counties in Idaho, it attracts the most conservative of Idahoans. If either of the teachers mentioned were conservative, those students wouldn't be complaining. In fact I only hear complaining (at least from the students in the Political Science department) about the more liberal instructors and there are a few. One guy today said if "he [the instructor] wants to teach like that he needs to move to California." Yes, welcome to the most conservative state in the union.

Had I really thought about it and found the courage to be the dissenting voice that morning, I would have said three things: 1) If you're so unhappy with the way they teach, then why the hell are you here? There are plenty of other schools that will cater to your closed-minded ideologies. And ISU certainly isn't begging you for your tuition money. 2) The fall semester was the hardest yet that I have had at ISU, but when I was to class I never once did not appreciate the instructor's time and effort. 3) How are we to ever learn from the mistakes of prior generations if we don't listen to their stories?

The basketball and football teams are feuding, we're just finally coming around to an honest discussion about the possibility of a medical school, and we are paying more and more each year for our education in a state that values prisoners over students. What is so wrong with a professor, who I am sure is underpaid and definitely under appreciated, who takes time out of his teaching to share an important lesson that came from an event none of us lived through? How are we ever going to know? How are we ever going to learn?

There are plenty of instructors who wouldn't mind only giving a midterm and final. Plenty who wouldn't mind assigning book after book to read. Plenty of instructors who wouldn't mind failing you just because they can. When you run across an instructor who has been nothing but patient, never expecting too much, or demanding more than what is reasonable, don't waste the air in your lungs to criticize.


Nick Speth said...

Most of my professors are liberals, and I think that goes for most everybody's professors, but liberal or conservative, I have no problem with them expressing their opinions (especially in an upper-division class) as long as they present them as opinions, and make it part of a discussion, not a lecture (meaning students' opinions are welcome).

In fact I did a report on politics in the classroom for one of my teaching classes at one point. Maybe I'll put it up on NDN.

Marc said...

Here are two possible reasons most professors seem to be liberal:

(1) People who choose to spend their lives in service to others, forgoing higher wages simply are liberal. Conservatives go grub money and success for themselves and damn the rest of us.

(2) Intelligent people who spend their lives in study and reflection become liberal because that's where the truth is.

Tara A. Rowe said...

Nice point, Marc. I think at ISU there isn't a balance, but rather a larger number of liberal when I said ISU is one of the most liberal campuses in the state I meant that it lies in a traditionally liberal county with more or less a faculty of liberals. The students, on the other hand, bleed conservativism.

Communis Legionarius said...

One exception to Marc's point would be the men and women who make up the military and spend their lives in the service of others; however military members are overwhelming conservative. I don't know why they are, I mean the Democrats are the ones trying to get more funding for soldiers, while the Republicans are giving tax breaks to millionaires and siphoning money to weapon systems that could be used for body armor.

Tara A. Rowe said...

Nice point, Communis.