I always resisted buying Rock Band. It just looked so awesome, and I really have so little time. I could not afford to spend hours in front of my TV, pretending to play guitar. But last night, my roomates broke me down. We bought it. And I subsequently spent the next four hours pretending to play guitar.
In 2009 time is a valuable commodity. There are so many distractions that it can be a challenge to maintain ones focus. Professor Kara Miller of Babson College seems to think American students are losing this battle ... and that makes them lazy. In an Op-Ed in yesterday's Boston Globe (and on Boston.com*) Professor Miller voices her displeasure with the disparate work ethic she sees between her international and domestic students.
While Miller's Chinese, Indian and Latin American students show a motivated desire to actually learn, the Americans are quite different. You see, American students spend their nights playing video games rather than sleeping and their class time sleeping rather than learning (that is, of course, when they aren't busy sexting!).
By the time students are in college, habits can be tough to change. If youâ€™re used to playing video games like â€œModern Warfareâ€™â€™ or â€œHaloâ€™â€™ all night, how do you fit in four hours of homework? Or rest up for class?
Chinese undergraduates have consistently impressed me with their work ethic, though I have seen similar habits in students from India, Thailand, Brazil, and Venezuela. Often, theyâ€™ve done little English-language writing in their home countries, and they frequently struggle to understand my lectures. But their respect for professors - and for knowledge itself - is palpable. The students listen intently to everything I say, whether in class or during office hours, and try to engage in the conversation.
Too many 18-year-old Americans, meanwhile, text one another under their desks (certain they are sly enough to go unnoticed), check e-mail, decline to take notes, and appear tired and disengaged.
You mean to tell me, that students with the means and motivation to travel 10,000 miles to attend school in Boston are working harder than the average Babson student from Attleboro? I am shocked. Shocked!
One of the problems with Miller's assertion is that she isn't comparing peers to peers. The fact of the matter is that, yeah, the average American student probably isn't as engaged in their average Rhetoric or History class (what Miller apparently teaches**) as an international student. But you know what, the average Chinese student, who hasn't traveled to the US for the explicit and sole reasone to study, isn't that engaged either.
You know how I know? I've met the average Chinese student. And he spends a hell of a lot more time playing Modern Warfare than the average American student. Last time I checked, American students weren't being checked into rehab for playing too many video games. Or, you know, dropping dead after forgetting to eat or sleep during a gaming marathon.
And I don't mean this to be an America versus the world type argument. That isn't the issue. The issue is the doom-and-gloom spiel that one generation lays upon a younger generation. "Weâ€™ve got a knowledge gap, spurred by a work-ethic gap," says Miller. A number of studies have shown that not only do American students have more homework than other countries, but American workers log more hours. For an educator to suggest that American students have a "work-ethic" gap is ignorant at best and intellectually dishonest at worse.
What that would suggest, to me, is that the problem is not this generation's work ethic. The problem is with the professor's engagement of students. You know what, prof, you're right. There are a lot of distractions. But instead of spending your time complaining in Op-Ed's to the Globe, how about you rethink your lesson plan. Find a way to understand and reach your students, rather than deride them for their generational differences.
And don't give me a load about how students should be lucky for the opportunity just to go to college and they should sit through your boring lectures because it's for their own good. Because in this economy, you should be lucky to have a job. And you need to recognize the opportunity you have. And if you aren't meeting the requirements of that job, maybe you should rethink your approach, rather than blame unquantifiables characteristics like video games, cell phones or "work ethic." Maybe Professor Miller needs to reexamine whom exactly the lazy party is.
*On an unrelated note: Really Boston.com? Pop-up ads? Is it 1999 already?
**This from only cursory research. I am a lazy American after all.