Sunday, February 28, 2010

28 February 2010 Wasting away in academia

28 February 2010 Wasting away in academia

In January I returned to campus with a fair degree of excitement and some trepidation. I was eager to make an attempt at learning something new; and I was concerned about being able to keep up with students who have been active and involved in studying in the electronic information era, using tools and techniques that did not exist when I completed my BS in Medical Technology (now Clinical Laboratory Science).

The Crime Scene Investigation course is frankly a disappointment. I have no doubt that the instructors are quite competent, know their subject matter intimately, and are capable of teaching at a much higher level than they are currently. The problem is the quality and caliber of students enrolled in the class. Those who routinely sit near me spend the class period sleeping or playing with their cell phones in some manner. They do not take notes, do not ask questions other than, “Will this be on the test?” or “Will we have class the Friday before spring break?” Not exactly sterling students. Friday’s class was a ten minute review of what will most likely be on the midterm exam. I was honestly annoyed at having wasted gasoline and time to drive in for that class. However, one of the young men who routinely sleep did wake up enough to sit up and eat during the review.

I’m amazed at the level of rudeness apparent in their behavior and amazed that the instructors are not able to single out and stop such behavior. I’m rather certain that as easy as this “exam” will be, cheating via cell phone will be rampant. Were it me, I’d have made an announcement on day one that any use of cell phones in class would result in immediate and irrevocable penalties being subtracted from any grade point totals.

My history course is open to both graduate and undergraduate students. To date, I’ve seen nothing to make me think it requires an undergrad degree to understand the material being presented. At the half-way point in the course less than one 5 days worth of class time have actually covered material directly dealing with the fate of Jews during the Holocaust. Most of the class time has dealt with the material from a German approach. While this is necessary to explain some of the aspects of the Holocaust, the basic source material suggested by the professor is weak with regard to the actions and fate of Jews.

There is very little input from the class members, very few questions asked by them. I’m trying to feed in some information about Jewish life in Eastern Europe prior to and during the Holocaust. It hasn’t triggered anyone asking questions of me, which disappoints me. The professor’s area of interest and expertise is German history from WWI – modern Germany. I have no doubt he is well educated in his field. I’m not sure, yet, how well he will actually deal with the Einsatzgruppen and death camps. Right now, he’s wasting about ten minutes of every class talking about things that have absolutely no relationship to the class in any matter. He seems to want to be a “warm and fuzzy” professor. I think I would prefer someone more Bismarkian in nature.

I’m still debating whether or not to actually do the two book reviews and the research project that the regular students are required to complete. I don’t get grades for attending and I’m not really certain he wants to grade anything he doesn’t have to. The first book, a history of a German reserve police battalion tasked with murdering Jews in Ukraine seems overly apologetic to me. The author has added a long afterword defending his position against the differing opinion of another academic. While it is well referenced, the conclusions that the author draws seem more aimed at absolving his subjects than at pointing out the evil that they helped propagate by their actions. I truly find little of merit in the author’s work. He seems to be just one more historian lacking the courage to hang the blame on everyone involved.

I have no reason to believe that the CSI class will improve in nature. I can only hope that the material covered after the poor overworked darlings return from spring break actually begins to deal with life in Poland, in the Pale, and in the USSR for Jews. Somehow, I’m not that sure it will.

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