Slow Learners

A woman completing her college education writes.
When you ask a question at a lecture, is it secretly just your opinion ending with the phrase “do you agree?” If so, your name is something like Jake, or Chad, or Alex, and you were taught that your voice is the most important in every room. Somewhere along your academic journey, you decided your search for intellectual validation was more important than the actual exchange of information. Now how do you expect to actually learn anything?

American society tells men, but especially white men, that their opinions have merit and that their voice is valuable, but after four years of listening to white boys in college, I am not so convinced.
Four years? Students at these elite colleges must be a little slow. I didn't even need two paragraphs to come to doubt the merit of her voice.

Somebody apparently told her otherwise, even to the point of soliciting and publishing this article. That was deeply unfair to her.


douglas said...

I laughed when I saw that piece. She certainly doesn't come across as the type to not make her views heard, and she's free to argue against whoever else puts their views forward. Maybe she just didn't like the results of those arguments?

Elise said...

When you ask a question at a lecture, is it secretly just your opinion ending with the phrase “do you agree?”

Sounds like most Congressional members in televised hearings - regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, or party.

Christopher B said...

I often ask questions like that because want to make sure I understand what you said in my own words and not simply be able to repeat concepts verbatim without actually understanding them. And I darn well expect to be told if I'm wrong.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I haven't been in a college classroom for a long time. However, I have been at Grand Rounds, department meetings, church annual meetings, town meetings, and professional trainings and have not noticed this happening. If anything, I would have said it is slightly the opposite. My sample is likely not entirely representative, however.

Also, women got into her college, got better grades, and graduated at a higher rate than the boys so I'm not sure that there is objective evidence boys' voices matter more.

Missing from both the essay and the criticism is the recognition that not everyone speaks up in class, and those who do may not be representative of the entire sex.

Anonymous said...

I attended an all-women's college and observed that most women, even with men absent, did not want to be the first to speak. I tended to dominate things if I wasn't careful. There were three or four of us who always ended up leading the discussion.

Several of my classmates said they went to an all-girls school because that way men could not dominate class discussion and academic life. So why not speak up and participate? This as in the 1990s, so things may have changed since then.


douglas said...

Oh, it's definitely true that it's usually a few students who do most of the talking in a group- when I taught studio, those students were like gold to me, because they got the conversation started, and also informed me about where the students might be at that moment. Groups that didn't have one or a few of those students were very, very hard to teach at times. When they all stay quiet and deferential, as a professor, you're just listening to yourself talk, and that's not nearly as good. So, with all that, I don't think the talkative students are a bad thing at all (usually). In fact, I'll advise my kids to take a good look at not just a college's faculty and facility, but their students- class chemistry and attitude make a world of difference.

I can surely see where students more reticent to speak up might like an environment that made them more comfortable, and it's unsurprising that for some girls, it's an all girls environment. That would seem to tell one more about those girls than about the students that spoke up where they were before though.