When did college become a repeat of middle school? When Tech started learning communities. As I understand them, students in a learning community take most of their core classes together along with UNIV 1020, which is basically an introduction to Tech that you could learn in a campus tour.
This idea of being with the same people all day, learning the lay of the land, reminds me a lot of sixth grade, when the same 20 students would move around to the different teachers so we would adapt to middle school better.
I thought it was silly then, and I think it’s silly now.
Freshmen in college are adults. They come from many different backgrounds and have different experiences as they adapt to college life. A big part of college is learning your place and adapting accordingly – on your own terms.
I think the hope the administration has for learning communities is that they will create a close community of students who adapt to college well and stay in school.
But community is not built artificially. I do not love Tech because I was told all the reasons why I should, or from mandatory service projects and mandatory concerts.
I learned to love Tech from positive experiences over the past two and a half years, many of them not in a classroom.
(On a side note, there are many people in my classes whom I would not want to see two or three times a day. I feel sorry for students who are trapped in learning communities with people they don’t like and can’t take classes with friends in another learning community.)
A campus develops a community narally. A university can always work to improve its image and enhance its community vibe, but that should come secondary to the main goal of any school: learning.
Public colleges give everyone (for the most part) a chance for higher education. But it should not be the university’s job to hand-hold everybody to make sure they stay.
Students have to build their own study habits, decide which classes are needed and when for their degree, and develop their own sense of service to the school and community.
If you treat students like children who need help every step of the way, how can you expect them to take on challenges that require independence and initiative?
The Y-generation is getting a lot of slack for being coddled. Our parents spoiled us. Our elementary teachers told us how special each and every one of us was. And then we are criticized for living at home well into our 30s and expecting everything handed to us on a silver platter.
We expect it because it’s true. In learning communities, you don’t even have to plan your schedule, you just take the classes labeled for your specific learning community.
Our managing editor, Amanda Russell, is a student mentor for a UNIV 1020 class. She said that the students are so used to being told what to do and how to do things, that they cannot do simple tasks on their own.
“These kids are hitting a brick wall,” Russell said. “They came up with this idea for a service learning project, but it was up to me and Dr. Wilson to string along ideas.They wanted us to tell them what to do.”
I know the University wants to increase student critical thinking. And it should want that. Critical thinking is a useful life tool that any university graduate should have.
Yet learning communities seem to only teach freshmen students that they don’t have to think. Handholding, ease-into-college-learning, communities do not create critical thinking.
Challenging students to take care of themselves and be responsible for their decisions and actions creates critical thinking.
College is about learning and facing challenges. When you get that degree, you should feel like it’s worth something, not just a piece of paper for sitting in a class with the same 20 people being fed information.
Where did Tech get the idea that learning communities were actually useful? Short answer: from another school.
Tech itself was spoon-fed the information that learning communities enhances the college experience, and in turn, that increases tuition.
Instead of developing its own unique way to increase critical thinking, Tech threw some money at the problem and mimicked someone else.
I guess if the school can’t act independently, I shouldn’t expect the freshman class to either.