Finishing my first semester teaching in higher education, the biggest thing I learned from the experience is that the expectations students have for their own education are incredibly low. I don't know if this is a product of a high school education that inculcates passivity, or a general sense of disempowerment. But, I don't think my students are exceptions; from the most prestigious colleges and universities to the least, students don't know what to expect from college.
Popular media and advertisements sent from college often portray the experience of higher education as an extended summer camp. Students generally have such bad experiences in high school, they are hopeful that academics will play a minor part in their future lives away from home. More, applying to college is so grueling–and it often feels so arbitrary–that getting to college can feel like the end of the road.
I've been thinking about the ethics behind all of this, I feel that higher education has to be on the hook in some way for teaching students what they can expect–more, what they should demand–from higher education. The only example I know of a school that does this well is Bard College
(see Steely Dan
for a less positive take on the college). Take a look at their required three week pre-college program in Language and Thinking
. At the end of this program, a student will be in a much better position to be an active and informed learner than if he just arrived on campus a week or so before class, with Frank the Tank
as his vision of what school is like. So much money is spent on and in higher education, it is worth thinking about what can be done to develop what students expect from it.