Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

We need harsh teachers

By coddling us, colleges avoid their duty
Nina Walat/Daily Collegian (2019)

Imagine you’re a college student and you have to make a choice – you have to choose between two different professors. One professor is notorious for being a strict grader and a hard taskmaster. He seems wholly unbothered by modern day concerns of student mental health or workload management. The other professor is also well-known, but for being a sweetheart. He goes easy on grading and offers plenty of extensions, while being genuinely concerned whether students are feeling burdened by his class’ workload.

The choice seems to be easy; who in their right mind would pick the first professor?

I would, and I think you should too.

Before a pitchfork mob descends upon me, allow me to clarify. I understand that most people would pick the second professor, and that’s completely fine. Where we differ is that I think there is something to be said for an old-school, no-nonsense approach to teaching. While there have certainly been plenty of benefits to framing educational pedagogy around modern conceptions of workload management, some things have been lost in the process.

For example, on the first day of class, conventionally termed ‘Syllabus Week,’ one of my professors dismissed the idea of spending an entire class period reading out a syllabus as a frivolous waste of time. Instead, he jumped straight into teaching course material, after a preliminary walk through some course necessities.

We’ve all had classes that weren’t able to finish all the material listed in the original syllabus. Wouldn’t it make sense to not waste one, sometimes two, whole class periods on information that all students have access to and can peruse at their leisure? Instead, that time could be put towards actually reviewing the material the professor hopes to cover, while students still have enthusiastic zeal that will likely die out by the third week of semester.

This approach would save time, and it would also better prepare us for the realities of employment. While colleges have grown more progressive toward workload concerns for their students, the same cannot be said for most jobs in our economy.

Cutthroat corporate culture is designed entirely around the idea of employees as workhorses, all competing for a scarce number of rewards: promotions, pay raises and so forth. The only way to win this never-ending contest is to outwork your competition.

While the negative effects of such a culture are apparent, and the work towards dismantling it is ongoing, for the time being the ruthless nature of industry remains. We, as prospective job seekers, should be prepared to handle it.

If colleges do not prepare us for it, and instead attempt to sugar-coat the harsh reality that we will have to face, then they are doing no one any kind of service; not to us and not to themselves either.

Of course, there are downsides to this harsher, old-fashioned form of instruction. Many students may struggle to keep up in such a class. The cutthroat and competitive reputation such a class inevitably acquires may turn away prospective students.

Not everyone who enrolled in a university has ambitions to climb the corporate ladder. For those who have no desire to enter the rat-race that is modern day corporate America, such preparation is pointless.

All of this is true, and it is exactly why I do not wish that all professors revert to a 1960s-esque style of instruction All I argue is that there should be a few more professors of the old-fashioned sort.

When selecting classes, we all have a choice of which professor to take the class with. If one wishes to undergo a rigorous and preparatory experience, they should have the option to take that class with such a professor. If not, then they should have the option to take the class with a relatively easy-going one. What matters is that students should have the choice.

Manas Pandit can be reached at [email protected].



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