Tag Archives: professor

Intro to Macroeconomics

I took this class in college, Intro to Macroeconomics, it was some required course that I had no interest in really paying attention to, let alone studying, but I had heard that the course material was pretty easy, and it was one of those giant lecture classes, like a hundred and fifty kids staring down at a professor in a big hall with stadium seating. So I thought, OK, I’ll tough it out, I’ll get my credits and say goodbye forever to the world of economics.


But day one, the professor barely says hello before he goes off on this crazy rant, “All right you little punks, I read on the Internet that you all think I’m an easy A, right? Isn’t that why all of you signed up for this class? Huh? You think I’m easy? Well bad news kids, this is going to be one of the hardest classes you’ve ever taken in your lives.”

I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but he did get his point across, because on the second class, only twelve of us had decided not to drop the course. I don’t know what exactly he was going for in striking such an intimidating tone from the get-go, like was he expecting a small class of only the most dedicated students of macroeconomics? Because, while I can’t speak for anyone else in the class, I chose to remain based solely on convenience. This hour and fifteen Tuesday and Thursday fit so nicely in my schedule. That semester, I never had to wake up any earlier than eleven, I had plenty of space sprinkled throughout my day for lunch or snacks. This course was like the ribbon on an artfully wrapped present.

A gift to myself, half a year of pure convenience. That’s what I was going for anyway. It turned out that this once joke of a professor took his ratemyprofessor.com score a little too seriously. It was like he had a giant chip on his shoulder, something to prove. To who? To us, apparently, the remaining dozen who either wouldn’t or couldn’t find a way to rearrange their entire schedule.

“First order of business,” his words echoed out, he was practically screaming to us, all spaced out in that giant classroom. “If you miss more than one class, your grade is going down a whole letter.” Yikes. Listen, I was all for making a really good effort at attending every class, but come on, that’s a little harsh, don’t you think? “If you don’t hand in an assignment, that’s another letter grade.”

I double-checked the class schedule, to see if it wasn’t too late to switch, but the add-drop period was over. I swallowed hard as I came to terms with what my semester might be looking like. One sick day, jeez, should I just use it right away? Or maybe save it for sometime when I’d really need it?

“Oh and one more thing,” he got ready to spread the icing all over the cake, “You’re only allowed to use a marble notebook. I don’t want to see any spiral bound books in my class. Got it?”

Marble notebooks, I thought, what is this, third grade? I already bought all of my school supplies earlier. This guy wanted me to go back and buy some stupid old-fashioned notebook? What did he care what kind of notebook I used? Was he going to be writing notes in it? It was such an arbitrary decree, like he might as well have banned blue pens.

I felt bad for him, he was obviously lashing out at us because he had no idea where else to direct his impotent rage. And even after he calmed down, he never looked happy. From there on out, it was just him standing at the head of the class, droning on about supply and demand, showing us really boring PowerPoint presentations, never so much as cracking a smile or letting on that he enjoyed at all being in the classroom with us.

As for my end of the bargain, I think I missed two classes. And I put basically zero effort into the course as a whole. This guy was so boring. And I hated that marble notebook. It served a purpose for about two weeks or so, when I spent an entire four classes coloring in the white parts of the marble design with black pen. But after that, I was left with nothing else to do. Those stupid rounded corners on the pages. You’d open it up and it wouldn’t stay open, that thing wanted nothing more than to be permanently closed, just like my mind during that class, my attention span unable to string more than five consecutive seconds together of listening to that guy talk.

My final grade was a C-, by far the worst of my college career. But whatever, I turned out OK right? I mean, yeah, I guess I ruined my shot at being elected chairman of the Fed. But yeah, I guess that’s what I get for basing the entirety of my college career on optimally timed lunch breaks.

The professor is a computer program

This week, two articles in the newspaper caught my eye. The first one looked at new programs that would allow computers to instantly grade written essays at a collegiate level. The second one dealt with cutting edge software that would be able to track exactly how much reading students were actually doing for their classes.

It seems to me like education is heading in a terrible direction. Computers to grade tests? Computers to make sure we’re doing our reading? Let’s look at where we’re currently at in terms of higher education. Everybody is expected to go to college. Colleges cost ridiculous amounts of money. High school graduates are pressured at eighteen years old to decide where they’d like to spend the next four years, how they’d like to secure the ridiculous amounts of money necessary to finance such an education, and then the next ten or twenty years after that figuring out what they’re supposed to do to pay it all off.

It’s not worth it now, and it’s going to be worth even less if computers are doing the majority of a professor’s work. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big believer in a liberal arts education. Everything I learned in college, while it didn’t necessarily lead me to a successful career, it was instrumental in what I know, my views on the world. I learned how to write. I learned critical thinking, new ideas, differing opinions. That kind of stuff is essential.

But come on, my college bill was something like forty grand a year. What are you really spending your money on? Education. How do you get that? Classes. What are the classes like? For me, classes began as this huge rush at the end of a semester to register for classes for the next semester. Everything booked up very quickly. You were lucky if you secured half of the courses that you actually wanted to take.

And then you got in a class and it was like forty students for every professor. And that wasn’t even counting the first two years, when we were expected to take all of the core curriculum, taught not by real professors, but by grad students. To me, the whole process seems like a huge joke. The amount of time spent in class is a fraction of time spent in class during high school. I always say this, but am I the only one who thought that high school was significantly harder than college? I put in half the time and work that I did four years prior and I wound up doing great.

Which brings me back to my original point. Everybody is paying this ridiculously steep price for a college diploma, and what are we really getting? A few hours a week of class. Office hours with the professor. It’s all absurd. And now they want to make computers in charge of grading written work, of charting progress with the class texts?

By the way, none of the class textbooks are included in the cost of tuition. Oh yeah and maybe half of your classes have lab fees. Who do you think is going to be paying for the grading software? Is it going to be included in bill or will it be a little addition tacked on to the invoice?

In making the case for computerized grading, proponents claim that it will, “free up professors for other tasks.” What other tasks? You’re supposed to be grading. You’re supposed to be looking at what students write and figuring out if they’re really getting it. But teaching classes is really only a minor role for most professors. They have to do their own work, their own research and writing. Which is fine, but maybe the universities can use some of that forty thousand dollars per student to hire more professors, give them less work, smaller classes, more time to spend balancing their writing and their teaching.

I just feel like the whole system is so disorganized, so kind of cobbled together in any way to maximize the number of students able to fit on a campus. Which wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the cost of tuition. These software advances seem to me a blatant attempt to churn out curriculums, to make grading part of an assembly line, with us graduates the finished products. Here’s your grade. Here’s your diploma. Here’s your debt. Next!