Friday, January 20, 2006

Craziness in the Academy

The news just keeps coming. Do I want to join this oh-so-fickle profession? I just don't know.

So my alma mater, Wheaton College, fired a professor for converting to Catholicism. Yikes. I'm none too pleased. He moved over from the Episcopal church - which to me is really hardly a move at all (you just have to reject the calling of women and gays and you're in). Good ol' Duane, Mr. Conservy, said that our venerated Evangelical institution couldn't be sullied by a Catholic because they believe the Pope holds equal authority with Scripture. First of all, not all Catholics believe that; second of all, most Protestants hold their church's authority pretty highly too, although they are loathe to admit it. And anyway, who is Duane to make sweeping pronouncements about the faith of over 1 billion people worldwide?

The irony is that many Catholic institutions have for years allowed non-Catholics to teach at their institutions to provide a needed broadness in theology and more importantly, expertise in their fields. Also it's really wild that Wheaton hired the prof to teach Medieval theology - specifically Aquinas - which led to his conversion.

I don't know what we're going to do with the academy.

I have more student stories, too. Last year J had a big winner for the Danger Professor Robinson award. This student came to him to whine about his grade on a paper about Descartes. He was pissed because he thought J had graded him down for disagreeing with J's opinions (and on his class evaluation - which yes is anonymous but they put their major and he was the only one from his major - he put that J grades down students who disagree with him, which is unfair, untrue, and could get J in trouble), when in fact he was graded down for not understanding Descartes' opinions. Now I will grant you that there are many interpretations of famous people's work, and often one does have to just believe what the teacher says. But then again, most teachers will happily accept a disagreeing interpretation if it can be proven from the text.

So like I say, he just wrote a lazy paper and he got a D. Here were a few of his protestations:

"But I'm a philosophy major!"
"I turned this paper in to three other classes and got an A!" (okay, first off, that's plagiarism to turn in the same work for different classes; secondly, the school hired J to teach Descartes because he knows more about the man than their profs - obviously)

And finally, my favorite:
"I don't pay $25,000 a year to get a D's on my papers!!"

Isn't that cute? He's learned about buying your way through life. How very American. How very entitled. What a jackass.

The thing he doesn't realize is that if teachers start giving out grades for lesser work, then the value of his $25k/year education will go down. And that means to get the best education people will have to pay way more, because at the level he's at it won't mean anything anymore. Does that make sense?

Besides, that's a bargain price these days. That was the price of Harvard when I was looking at schools 13 years ago. I guess he's expecting a bargain-basement education.


Anonymous said...

i picked up on this today, too. crazy stuff.

Ironically, I was part of an ordination commission last night for a Presbyterian colleague of mine teaching at a Catholic institution. I had hope last night.

Anonymous said...

While I never had a parent be quite that blatant, there were certainly plenty of folks who thought a private school education ought to buy their kids good grades. I assure you that kid learned a lot of "you can buy anything" lessons growing up.