What a horrible end to my life’s work.
Tomorrow will be my last day teaching at a local university. It will be my last day teaching, period. For approximately 25 years, I’ve taught at the university level, and I spent seven years in a public high school.
Over the years I’ve seen the effects of technology on students. When I started teaching at University of Missouri as an adjunct in 1990, students read books. They didn’t have cell phones. Computers were still new. I wrote my master’s thesis on an Apple Mac. Now, the overwhelming majority have never read a book they were not assigned. Most never read the assigned books, preferring instead to consult Sparknotes online or submit papers they’ve paid someone to write for them. They cannot follow an argument in an article. They do not have the patience to try and tease out complex ideas and apply them to related issues. They don’t care about learning. They only care about their grades. They see nothing wrong with plagiarism.
Of course there are still a few for whom learning matters. The number has dwindled, however, and I find it decreasing every semester. I cherish those students who value learning.
In universities, I’ve seen the rise of identity politics, beginning in the late 1980s with the “gender/race/class” fanatics: feminist professors crying and screaming at colleagues, socialist professors stealing ballots out of a grad student’s mailbox, anonymous notes left in a Camille Paglia book on a grad student’s desk, accusing her of betraying her gender. It was wild back then, but at least there was a battle. There were small victories for those of us who tried to stop the insanity. We had no idea what was coming.
Now, higher education is saturated with critical race theory, radical feminist theory, socialism, identity politics, and students who cannot write and don’t know how to read. I see students in ball caps claim that America is evil. Teaching that communism is evil will elicit a call from the department head.
There is no battle. Don’t question. Don’t debate. Heil BLM!
Holding students to high expectations is an act of intimidation.
High schools are no better. The pressure to keep graduation rates high and therefore secure state funding means that many who graduate cannot read or write. Push them through; do what you need to do so they can graduate. Let them turn in dumbed-down work so they will graduate! State-mandated testing is eating away at the heart of public education. Teaching to the test is what teachers do now. Their salary depends on how well those students do on standardized tests.
Despite these pressures, I loved teaching at Sequatchie County High School, in eastern Tennessee. Those were the best teaching years of my life. The students were wonderful and the administration was not Draconian. Nevertheless, it broke my heart to see students graduate who could barely read. Their futures slipped through the cracks when they were in first grade.
It’s all about money or it’s all about indoctrination. No conservative professors are hired in higher education. No dissent is possible. If a conservative professor reveals her politics, even in a private Facebook post or on Twitter, she will be fired — or not hired back the next semester. This did not happen to me, but I lived in fear that someone would overhear a conversation with my husband on the phone, or see my pro-life license plate and deduce my party politics.
It will feel good not to live in fear. It will be great not to have to read another essay that is slop. I will miss the students who cared, but I can’t wait to say good-bye to those students who did nothing all semester and then came crying about their grade a week before school ends.
Tomorrow I will wear a nice dress and heels to my last class. I will teach the last lecture, which happens to be one of my favorites. I will show them some brief film on the American Dream, maybe even Trump’s wonderful soliloquy on the promise of America. Then I will get to work on the next chapter of my life and not look back.