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A good college education
Carleton Goodsell
Sister Edith Bogue, a friend for over 40 years, and a high school and college classmate, just wrote My Alma Mater tops the $50K mark. She currently teaches sociology at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth:

[Carleton] was certainly not an easy school! Several of us who took History 10 from a brand-new faculty member that Fall showed up in the Dean of Women’s office begging for intervention or grades of “Incomplete” because we just couldn’t figure out how to write the papers this professor wanted – and we had a hard time understanding the books we were reading.[....]

I don’t remember all of the books on the reading list, but I have firm memories of reading Freud’s “Civilization and Its Discontents” and E. P. Thompson’s “The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin History)” without fully understanding them.
At the same time, first term Freshman year, I was in another section of History 10. Our class looked at a topic in medieval history. I still have the books:
  1. Medieval Cities
  2. Cathedral and Crusade, vol. I
  3. Cathedral and Crusade, vol. II
  4. Life on the English Manor
  5. The Gothic Image
  6. The Murder of Charles the Good
  7. Massacre at Montségur
  8. Social France at the Time of Philip Augustus
  9. The Pursuit of the Millenium
My professor was not as tough as Edith's.

Sociology 10 used an early edition of Coser and Rosenberg’s “Sociological Theory: A Book of Readings” which was filled with extended excerpts from the original authors – long German-style sentences and all.

When I compare those books with the pre-digested textbook pablum that we – and I mean “we” because I do it too – offer first year students today, I sit in stunned amazement.  On the one hand, my students  struggle to master the the concepts even in the best of the “learner-centered” textbooks which come complete with chapter summaries, websites with practice test questions, outlines, and flashcards. On the other hand, the books I had in college put me face-to-face with real thinkers and asked that I understand and grapple with their ideas. No firehose of government statistics, flashy photos, graphs and charts, and thousands of details to remember, as we have in the textbook. No – Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx and Carleton’s own Thorstein Veblen simply assumed that we – like they – knew the facts about the world. The real question was “why” not “what’s happening.”  As college freshmen, we didn’t – but we didn’t want to look bad, so we just did a lot of other reading on the side to catch up.  In the process, we learned to be independent scholars, and were invited into a world where ideas mattered and were taken seriously.


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