Mark Bauerlein: What’s the Point of a Professor?

Dear Commons Community,

Mark Bauerlein, English professor at Emory University, and the author, most recently, of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30),” had an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times calling on college professors to do more to challenge their students. Provocatively titled, What’s the Point of a Professor?, he comments on grade inflation, careerism, and most importantly, the need for faculty to become more engaged with their students. Here is an excerpt:

“…while they’re content with teachers, students aren’t much interested in them as thinkers and mentors. They enroll in courses and complete assignments, but further engagement is minimal.

One measure of interest in what professors believe, what wisdom they possess apart from the content of the course, is interaction outside of class. It’s often during incidental conversations held after the bell rings and away from the demands of the syllabus that the transfer of insight begins and a student’s emulation grows. Students email teachers all the time — why walk across campus when you can fire a note from your room? — but those queries are too curt for genuine mentoring. We need face time.

Here, though, are the meager numbers. For a majority of undergraduates, beyond the two and a half hours per week in class, contact ranges from negligible to nonexistent. In their first year, 33 percent of students report that they never talk with professors outside of class, while 42 percent do so only sometimes. Seniors lower that disengagement rate only a bit, with 25 percent never talking to professors, and 40 percent sometimes.”

Bauerlein’a recommendation:

“You can’t become a moral authority if you rarely challenge students in class and engage them beyond it. If we professors do not do that, the course is not an induction of eager minds into an enlarging vision. It is a requirement to fulfill. Only our assistance with assignments matters. When it comes to students, we shall have only one authority: the grades we give. We become not a fearsome mind or a moral light, a role model or inspiration. We become accreditors.”

Sound advice!




One comment

  1. I’ve red the book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future and I’ve found it very interesting, nice article, I’ll follow your site