Useless College Classes

This post is about an older article (from 2014), which I just now read and find fascinating. The author is a college professor who is teaching a course called “Wasting Time on the Internet.” Sounds like a made-up, clickbait article, but it’s unfortunately not. It’s legit, and it seems to be based on the premise that the Internet is like a surrealist painting and can be studied as such. So in the three-hour course, the students are supposed to aimlessly surf the Internet, but they will also “explore the long history of the recuperation of boredom and time-wasting, through critical texts by thinkers such as Guy Debord, Mary Kelly, Erving Goffman, Raymond Williams, and John Cage.” (I don’t know who any of those people are.)

Eh, I don’t know if I would take the course, although with that description, it sounds interesting and passably useful. Maybe it’s supposed to make students rethink the amount of time they spend online, or at least rethink what they look at online. The author of the article believes his class will encourage students to create something new from their aimless Internet wanderings. Their browsing history can become art, probably in the same way that a photo of someone’s fecal matter can also be considered “art” because anything goes.

There is a school of thought that says it is necessary to be bored or do things aimlessly, so that the brain can relax and daydream. After all, the daydreaming state is what brought about a lot of classic literature, art, and music. It seems to me like it’s all about how much time is spent wandering about aimlessly in your own mind. It’s one thing to do it in a three-hour class, but those three hours are certainly not the only time that students will be spending in their pointless Internet jaunts. The old principle still applies: Everything in moderation, including mindless “creative” time.

New School

There is so much I could say in response to this daily prompt.

You get to redesign school as we know it from the ground up. Will you do away with reading, writing, and arithmetic? What skills and knowledge will your school focus on imparting to young minds?

First off, I would definitely not do away with reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic because we need them more than ever. But instead of just reading a story and having to memorize useless details to regurgitate on a standardized test, it would be far more beneficial for students to read nonfiction and learn to critically analyze what they read.

Getting a certain number of volunteer or community service hours needs to be mandatory for schools. I know that some school systems have already implemented this, but when I was in school, it was not a requirement.

I’ve ranted about this a few times before, but I won’t stop until it becomes reality: Schools and universities really need to teach kids about real-world stuff. Like how to cook meals that aren’t “pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds,” rent an apartment, buy and maintain a car, buy and maintain a house, understand insurance, have healthy relationships, and so on and so on. Yes, I know these things are supposed to be taught by parents, but it’s way too often that parents drop the ball or can’t be bothered.

High schools need to teach students that college is not the only path to success. College is not mandatory, and some kids will not succeed in college simply because it is not the right choice for them or they don’t have the right temperament for it. Also, grade inflation in high school and college needs to stop. If the student does excellent work, he gets an A. If he does poor work, he gets a D. End of story. When I was in college, students used to bug professors to try and get them to drop the lowest test score or shorten the page count of a term paper to 5 instead of 10, and the sad thing was that sometimes the professors would give in. College is supposed to teach you about the real world, and in real life, you don’t get your way by whining or slacking off.

We Need TAs

I believe that children are getting both smarter and more arrogant. They are the center of their parents’ world and they know it, so when they get to school, they expect to be the center of every other adult’s world as well. Well, in a classroom of 20 or more kids, that ain’t possible. It’s even less possible when you have one teacher managing a class of elementary-age students by herself.

Where I live, elementary schools have teacher assistants for kindergarten through third grade classrooms. These brave souls help to manage the chaos of all those young kids and take on mandatory side jobs like working in the cafeteria and/or driving a school bus. They give special needs children the one-on-one attention that they need, provide extra help to students who are struggling in a particular subject, handle discipline matters, and much more so that the main teacher can focus on teaching.

And the state government wants to cut them from the payroll, which strikes me as foolish, especially when many parents let TV and the Internet raise their kids and have a mentality like, “Little Johnny’s off to school. Now he’s the teacher’s problem.” The way school systems are run doesn’t make a lot of sense because government officials make all or most of the decisions and have no idea what goes on in the classroom. They don’t seem to realize that cutting teacher assistant positions won’t make anything better and that having more money in the pot is useless unless it goes toward changes that will be helpful and not poorly implemented.