Confessions of a University Professor

POSTED BY AARON BARLOW

Planet of the Blind

I often find students in my classes who want more than just a course. They’re eager, sharp, apparently more energized than their classmates. For years I’ve tried to get a handle on what makes them different from their peers who, for the most part, are smart but largely without ambition. This is an old mystery and professors tend to wax philosophical about it. Whatever subject we teach we’re prone to saying: “if I reach 20% of my students, I’m doing pretty well.”

Around ten years ago I started calling this the “20% cop out” because I’d overheard too many faculty bemoan the inadequacies of undergraduates as if they were stale muffins or defective lawn ornaments. It’s easy. It’s the pedagogical equivalent of shooting snakes from a truck—a dubious sport but it sure takes your mind off of work.

I’d just turned fifty. I was the stepfather of two kids who…

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