Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"What are you gonna do? Put us in cages and let them throw peanuts at us?"

 

from yesterday's New York Times:

Frank Bruni: The Water Cooler Runs Dry
If you’re closing in on 50 but want to feel much, much older, teach a college course. I’m doing that now, at 49, and hardly a class goes by when I don’t make an allusion that prompts my students to stare at me as if I just dropped in from the Paleozoic era.

Last week I mentioned the movie “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” Only one of the 16 students had heard of it. I summarized its significance, riffling through the Depression, with which they were familiar, and Jane Fonda’s career, with which they weren’t. “Barbarella” went sailing over their heads. I didn’t dare test my luck with talk of leg warmers and Ted Turner.

I once brought up Vanessa Redgrave. Blank stares. Greta Garbo. Ditto. We were a few minutes into a discussion of an essay that repeatedly invoked Proust’s madeleine when I realized that almost none of the students understood what the madeleine signified or, for that matter, who this Proust fellow was.
And these are young women and men bright and diligent enough to have gained admission to Princeton University, which is where our disconnect is playing out...
To read the rest, click here.



10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Princeton, huh? I thought it was just me and IVC.

Anonymous said...

I feel better now and old. Very old.

Anonymous said...

When my students are missing information about anything from the American Civil War to the film "The Graduate," they excuse themselves by saying, "I wasn't born then." Fortunately, I tell them, it's all written down. But the truth is, few have any idea about more current events, Arab Spring, for example. They are young and provincial, and the world is not on their radar. In this way, they can be rather boring, but isn't this what a student is? One who needs to learn?

Anonymous said...

No, These are people who slept through High School and avoid books like they avoid work.

Anonymous said...

In defense of the millennials (as a millennial professor not much older), I don't know Barbarella either....how many professors are aware of the current popular music that their students' generation listens to? It is unfair to judge their academic abilities because of a generational divide. Now, not following the Arab Spring - no excuses. Not having a basic understanding of American historical trends - no excuses. But not knowing Jane Fonda's career, I can empathize...

Anonymous said...

Good points.

Here's the course Bruni's teaching:

https://registrar.princeton.edu/course-offerings/course_details.xml?courseid=003852&term=1144

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting question about what knowledge can be expected.

Anonymous said...

Barbarella in not an especially good example, but I think Bruni was being a bit tongue in cheek. However, I'm sure the same coud be said for Citizen Kane, The Seventh Seal, and Mean Streets--all important and seminal works.

As for current music choices, it seems that there is a wide level of appreciation by the older folks for good quality contemporary material. It's the complete lack of interest in anything that has come before--even only 40 or so years ago--that's troubling.

Roy Bauer said...

I think that we all can agree that a person ought to have some understanding of history, including recent history. No doubt researchers have made some effort to measure relative interest in history by the current youth compared to their predecessors. My impression as a college instructor--stricly anecdotal, that--is that young people seem generally to lack any strong sense that they should concern themselves with understanding the past. When they fail to recognize some of my allusions--to, say, the rise of conservatism in the 80s or the emergence of the internet--they seem lacking in any shame. There's no scramble to get up to speed. None.
Of course, it's hard to know who to blame for all this. Our society has long seemed essentially sans rudder. Movements are typically of dubious worth or significance or are simply reactionary

Anonymous said...

Thus the old line: "Are you ingorant or apathetic?" "I don't know and I don't care."

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