Monday, January 16, 2006

More Notes From the Undergrad

When I said that the "Me Customer- You My Employee" attitude is prevalent among 10% of the students that was more of a guess than an actual figure. I haven't yet asked my students how many of them see us as part of a service industry because I'm sort of scared to find out. Here's another post from Inside Higher Education, with my added empasis...

Kevin, an undergraduate, writes:
"I see the rate my professor website, although I have not yet entered any comments (though I might soon) as a useful resource when I choose classes.

"Note in other service industries the prevalence of employee service rating cards, turned into the hotel, restaurant or other service. They give the customer a chance to tell the company how they were assisted. I think rate my professors could serve the same purpose. There will be people, who, like the service cards, will write nonsense or inaccuracies or undeserved praise. A smart administration will take these things into account.

"In market economies (which higher educational institutions seem to believe and to a certain extent behave as though they are not part of), people are compensated not on the basis of how hard they work or claim to work, but on how well they provide value to customers (ie how much the students are educated)."

Notice that the student in this scenario plays no actual role in learning. Education is simply provided to them.


Hiromi said...

It's funny - I'm again reminded of that quote: "their main problem was that they had not the faintest idea how to live and yet - this is the hallmark of modernity - they were plentifully supplied with ego."

My mind just boggles. Where do the students get this sense of entitlement? And how ever more frequently every human interaction gets framed in economic terms, it seems. It's like no other argument besides one based on money can convince.

Rufus said...

I have a theory on this. Basically, I think that Communism was a failure, and as I'm currently reading Anne Applebaum's book "Gulag: A History" I think it was generally a pretty horrible failure. In general, it's not feasible anymore. So, there's no real "Second Way" to Capitalism now. There's really just One Way. So, the distinction becomes one between a sort of turbo-capitalism and some sort of "responsible" capitalism. I think this is why human interactions get framed in economic terms. Also, we're pretty well-off right now.

I think we just have to wait for a generation to come along and get sick of all of this. A lifetime of shopping loses its novelty after a while. Hopefully, they'll want something more interesting.

As for the egos, I think it has to do with High Schools that see "High self-esteem" as the highest asperation in life, and flatter the students accordingly.

Hiromi said...

I also attribute the ego thing to the self-esteem movement in primary and secondary education, and also to the pervasiveness of consumerism (you went into this in your "student as consumer" post).

There's also a backlash to your "personal can't be personal" observations. Consumption choices have become a *right.* It's extremely difficult to introduce standards and restrictions on and distributions of products, as that would restrict ever-holy consumer choice.

Wait a minute...where am I going here? I need some coffee.

Rufus said...

Right. Well, that's the difference between the citizen and the consumer. The market is based on the human will, as unfettered as possible. But, democracy is deeply ambivalent about the human will. This is why shopping can be much more satisfying than voting.

But, I honestly believe that those of us who teach are serving a normative function in society anyway- we are trying to make citizens, and have to submit to society as such. This is why I think attempts at radicalizing the classroom really are doomed. It's not our place and the larger society knows that. Just like a hospital that tried to become an office of the RCP would be shunned, at the least. But, as for the consumer mentality, we really do have to be the ones to take away the rubber nipple sometimes. I do want to say that most kids are actually very understanding when we take it away from them, but most I've seen enter the University with these sort of bottles.