Archive for the ‘University of North Georgia’ Category

Students’ Individual Responsibility   3 comments

Above:  A Portion of My Home Desk Area, November 5, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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When I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, taking upper-level history courses, a research paper was part of every such course.  The format was Turabian, of course.  In 1993-1996, my time at Valdosta State, I used an electronic typewriter to create my written assignments.  Almost always the professors were kind enough to permit endnotes instead of footnotes.  Those professors also never took any time to explain the Turabian format.  Doing so was not their job, and I never imagined that it was.  No, my responsibility vis-à-vis formatting was to consult and follow the style manual, then in the fifth edition.  My copy of the style manual was an essential volume in my library.

Many of the students I teach at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia apparently lack the initiative to consult the current Turabian manual (ninth edition) or an online Turabian guide.   Many of them seem to think that my job is to tell them everything about the Turabian style, especially with regard to footnotes (easy to do via computer) and bibliographic entries.  Many of them ignore my written guidance (more than any of my professors gave, that is, none) and plead ignorance.  Yet ignorance, especially the variety born of laziness and apathy, is not a good defense.

Many of my colleagues and I see the same disturbing pattern:  pupils, overall, expect proverbial hand-holding through tasks that should be simple for college students yet prove challenging.  Furthermore, proverbial hand-holding often does no good anyway, based on results.

As I tell students, the more they put into their education, the more they will get out of it.  Regardless of what they did or did not learn at their high schools (some of which report high test scores), they are responsible for showing the necessary initiative.  Instead, many of them give up and avoid taking any of my courses again.

I accept my responsibility to my students.  They deserve my best efforts to prepare them for the world.  One lesson I hope I teach is the importance of showing initiative.  Another lesson I strive to teach is working hard through struggles to emerge better off in the end.

I ponder the causes of the problems I recognize in many students.  A partial list follows:

  1. The sense of entitlement commonplace in Millennials;
  2. The results of helicopter parenting;
  3. The failures of schools, especially the coddling of students, often for the purpose of raising scores on high-stakes tests;
  4. The endemic lack of time-management skills;
  5. Short attention spans; and
  6. The plethora of distractions, mostly technological.

Responsibility is both collective and individual.  Regardless of the negative influences of others on one’s life, one does have much agency.  Those other influences may not cease to exist, but one can, at least, consult and follow a mandated style manual in a university course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Generational Experiences, Memories, and Knowledge   Leave a comment

Tomorrow I will begin to teach my Fall Semester 2018 sections of United States History I (through 1877) at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia

Whenever I prepare lessons, I think about generational experiences, memories, and knowledge.  The birth years of my students range from 1995 to 2001, with the greatest concentration of in 1999 and 2000.  Given that my memory reaches back to the 1970s, I am beginning to feel relatively old.  I find that PowerPoint is not a useful tool for teaching history; besides, most people who give PowerPoint presentations seem just to read their slides.  (I can read slides; why are people reading them to me?)  Neither do I teach from a script.  No, I teach from skeletal notes.  This means that, after I prepare and as I teach, I speak not quite extemporaneously.  I understand the material, but have no prepared comments.  This means that I have to watch my references.

Technological and cultural references are especially tricky.  I recall that once I confused a student when I said “typewriter.”  My Saturday Night Live references from the Dana Carvey-Phil Hartman era fall flat as nobody recognizes the reference to the Church Lady.  (“Isn’t that special?” “Could it be Satan?”)  These students have no memory of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Most of them have little sense of historical perspective; the 1990s might as well be ancient history for them.  If they do not remember it, it is ancient history, by their standards.  Books seem to be objects of curiosity for many of my students, who are addicted to screens anyway, and who mistake searching via Google for conducting research.

I come from a certain bookish background and a particular time.  Nine thick dictionaries and a thesaurus are on my desk.  I do not need nine dictionaries, but I like them.  The smell of old paper inspires great joy in me.  I like to hold a book. read, and turn pages.  I have no television or streaming service, and want none.  Days pass without me turning on my television set.  I enjoy screening foreign art movies as well as Marx Brothers films.  The original, British version of House of Cards (all three miniseries) is superior to the American version, I know.  Torchwood:  Children of Earth breaks my heart every time I watch it.  Tom Baker is the best actor to have played the Doctor; that is obvious.

I perceive the world differently than my students do partially because I have more and different experiences than they do.  My students are, for better and worse–hopefully more of the former than the latter–part of the future.  I hope to contribute to the shaping of that future, for the better, as I pass on to my students much of what I know.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Unprepared for College, Part II   Leave a comment

Spring Semester 2018 at the University of North Georgia is nearly over.

This night I have concluded the process of grading final essays and posting all grades at the proper electronic destinations.  The contrasts between two classes have proven to be quite dramatic, by the numbers.

Consider these numbers, O reader:

Class Grade = A

  • Class I–46%; Class II–27%

Class Grade =B

  • Class I–30%; Class II–6%

Class Grade = C

  • Class I–8%; Class II–17%

Class Grade = D

  • Class I–4%; Class II–0%

Class Grade = F

  • Class I–13%; Class II–50%

Plagiarists on the Final Essay

  • Class I–4%; Class II–22%

Plagiarism results in a zero on the assignment in question and an “F’ in the course.

Each class has its distinct collective personality.  That personality comes down to the luck of the draw–who enrolls in it and who stays.  I present the same material to the different groups and observe different results.  These results force me to conclude that more than half of one of these classes was not prepared for college.

I also notice that many students have little or no concept of plagiarism, despite my oral and written explanations of it, as well as the efforts of others to explain it.  They need to learn that concept now.  I wonder how many of them will learn that lesson now.

The semester is over.  Now I enjoy that fact.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

Posted May 3, 2018 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

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College Students and Deadlines   Leave a comment

Plus a Complaint Regarding a Related Matter

I teach undergraduates at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia (UNG).  Every semester I deal with students who seem to think that deadlines are friendly suggestions.  This is hardly a new problem.  It is certainly not unique to UNG or the Oconee Campus.  It does seem, however, to be getting worse.  Conversations with other members of the faculty prove that they are dealing with the same problem, and that they think it is getting worse.

Today, although not a teaching day, is certainly a working day for me.  Today is, to be precise, the deadline for Essay #2, due at turnitin.com by 10:00 p.m.  Today is also the last of five days to submit that assignment.  For anyone to receive an extension from me requires a desperate and unavoidable situation.  Experience teaches me to expect at least one student lacking such an emergency to ask for mercy.

I know I missed the deadline,

this student will write.  I will answer,

Yes, you did.

Then I will mete out the academic penalty.  Then some of them will not submit an essay.  That grade is automatically a zero, of course.

Based on my experiences with students and conversations with colleagues, I can only conclude that many students are accustomed to requesting deadline extensions for the flimsiest of reasons and receiving them.  I hear from people close to many local schools that those institutions of education are, for a lack of a more precise term, jokes.  That certainly explains many of the students who crash and burn in my courses.

I have responsibilities to students, just as they have responsibilities to themselves.  I am responsible, for example, for teaching them what they need to know–in this case, the importance of deadlines, which matter in the real world.  As much as I seek to build people up and help them achieve their potential, I understand that I am doing nobody any favors by engaging in proverbial hand-holding and spoon-feeding–certainly not in my capacity as a classroom instructor.  So I do not do that.  Society needs for people at least 18 years old to be functional adults.  College students have the responsibility to be functional adults and good pupils.

I know that I will read complaints about having required students in a history course to have used the Turabian format then having held them accountable for not doing so, despite the fact that I referred pupils to online guides to that format and showed them printed style manuals.  That, however, is a different, but related, matter.  I get the impression that certain students have never had to read and follow instructions or face the consequences.  It is better for them to learn that now than later, in the real world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

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In Praise of Books   Leave a comment

Above:  Five of My Books, August 3, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I come from a bookish family.  I recall the old family house in Summerville, Georgia, before my grandmother Taylor died, the structure stood vacant, and vandals burgled it (oddly, without any of the neighbors noticing).  I remember opening closets and finding bookshelves (full of books, of course) built into them.  My love of books is learned.

I, as a one trained in history, harbor strong suspicions of technology without resorting to joining the ranks of Luddites.  Technology provides tools, many of which I find useful.  Other tools, however, do not interest me.  Some of them are counter-productive.  A printed and bound book is, under the proper circumstances, of more value for a longer period of time than any electronic version of a book.  The former certainly requires less technology–such as glasses and a lamp, perhaps–to access it.  Although the Internet is a wonderful resource for reference purposes, when one knows how to use it properly, I prefer reference works when possible.

I notice that many of my students–some of them, by their own admission, not avid readers–seem oblivious to the presence of books as sources for their essays.  It is their loss.  They do not understand the pleasures of holding an old book and smelling the pages or admiring its design.  These students are, to borrow a term, digital natives.  They are not always adept at interpreting information well, analyzing sources properly, and appreciating the riches of well-edited reference works.  I still swear by my sets of Americanas (1962) and Britannicas (1968), encyclopedias more detailed in certain ways than any Internet resources I have found.

Furthermore, despite the digitization of many volumes at websites such as archive.org, an invaluable resource, not everything is there.  And, even when a particular book is there, a hard copy is superior and certainly easier on one’s eyeballs.  The physical book is also tactile; that is a virtue.

Books are superior to the alternatives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

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The Plural, the Possessive, and Contractions   Leave a comment

With Ruminations About Students, Technology, and Pre-College Education

The atrocious writing of many college students alarms me.  I wonder how they got into college without knowing, for example, that “it’s” is not the same as “its.”  “Its'” is not “its” either.  I know whereof I write, after years of teaching U.S. History survey courses (mostly the first part, through 1877) at a public university in Georgia.  To be fair, many students also write beautifully and understand English usage and grammar well.  This post is not about them and their delightful essays, however.

Many students seem confused about how to make a singular word plural.  Consider, O reader, the word “colonist.”  I am tired of reading essays and quiz answers in which pupils use it as if it is plural.  As they should have learned in elementary school, “colonists” is plural and “colonist” is singular.”  The way to make many words plural is to add an “s” to the end.

Many students confuse the plural and possessive forms of words.  Some of them labor under the delusion that “colonist’s” is plural, not singular possessive.   Alas, they are not alone.  One needs to go no further than the comments sections of websites to find examples of mangling the English language.  An example off the Internet is present in every weekly sales paper for a small chain of grocery stores in an around Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, where I live.  The sales papers indicate the stores “with deli’s.”  You, O reader, can probably think of local examples easily too.

As a matter of fact, one should use an apostrophe to create the plural forms sometimes, as in letters.  For example, I might calculate the percentage of students I assigned A’s at the end of last semester.  I would have “as” without the apostrophe.   The problem regarding apostrophes is using them when one should not.

I do not know what is so confusing for so many people regarding “it’s” and “its.”  “It’s” is the contraction for “it is.”  “Its” is a singular possessive pronoun.  This is simple, is it not?  It should be.

Although I teach history, I also have to teach some English usage and grammar, unfortunately.  I make students write essays, not take tests.  Each student has about a month to write 8-10 pages on a prompt he or she selects from a list of three or four options.  I also provide the pupils with detailed instructions and writing guidelines.  When I add the book report to the list of writing assignments, I assign each student to write 28-36 pages during the course of the semester.  This is hardly draconian, except on yours truly, for I have to read all of this writing.  (Do the math.)  Yet some pupils, as they write in course evaluations, consider 28-36 pages to be “a lot of writing.”  The length of the writing assignments (28-36 pages spread across four papers in one semester) is not excessive, but the accumulation of their bad writing and their complaining is.

I refrain from criticizing teachers who have preceded me in these pupils’ lives.  Not only do I lack sufficient information to arrive at a conclusion, but I also understand that teachers have inattentive students.  Many factors can cause students not to pay attention.  Life at home might be troublesome.  A pupil might be hungry.  One might be fatigued.  A student might have an especially short attention span.  Or one might simply not care.  Regardless of the reason or set of reasons applicable in any given case, a reality teachers know well is that what they taught and what certain students learned bear little or no similarity to each other.  Communication is, by definition, an interactive process.  Whenever Person #1 sends a message to Person #2, who receives it and understands it as Person #1 intended, Person #1 has communicated with Person #2.  A number of factors might garble the message, even if Person #1 has sent it as best as possible.

I do not blame teachers overall.  Yes, some teachers are better at their jobs than others are, but teachers deserve much more credit than they receive.  We, as a society, require that they do more than they ought to have to do.  Parents and guardians, for example, have much responsibility; we should not shift any of that to teachers.  Yet we do.    Not only do I blame many parents and guardians, especially those who do not accept their share of responsibility and make like needlessly difficult for educators, but I also assign blame to inattentive and lazy students who rely too much on technology.  “Technology” is a blanket term for tools, from the wheel to smart phones.  Technology is not the problem.  It is, after all, neutral; how one uses it is good or bad.  I know from one-on-one discussions with certain students that they rely on their computers (word processing programs, to be precise) with regard to writing.  These pupils have not, therefore, internalized English usage and grammar as well as they should have.  These students’ writing would be superior without computers; they would know how to write in a literate manner without word processing programs.  The fault lies with these pupils.

The technology, in fact, can be overwhelmingly positive.  I recall the electronic typewriter I used during my undergraduate years.  I remember being grateful when the professor required end notes, not footnotes.  I also recall having to retype pages because of a few mistakes.  Word processing programs are godsends in my life.  I do not, however, mistake the spell check function for proofreading.  Many students do.

I harbor concerns for college students who write poorly, as evident in their difficulties relating to the plural, the possessive, and contractions.  Many of them will apply for employment that will require them to write in an official capacity.  For some the application and interview process will entail going to a room and writing on paper.  Or perhaps they will, as part of the process, have to write a statement on the application itself.  There is also the matter of the cover letter, assuming that the employer in question reads it.  The process will expose these applicants’ inadequate language skills, unless they improve those skills in the meantime.

I recall having excellent teachers as well as parents who valued my education.  I also remember being an attentive student.  The factors of school, home, and pupil are essential in education.  They are crucial to one knowing the difference between lessons and lesson’s.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Posted July 1, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Language, University of North Georgia

Tagged with

The Definite Article   Leave a comment

Above:  The

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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One should use the definite article (the) cautiously.  I argue this point, for I prefer to speak and write accurately.  I also like for others to do the same.  The misuse of “the” renders one’s argument objectively false by overstating one’s case.  Such shoddy discourse annoys me.

As I have noticed, many college students have been (and are) overly found of “the.”  During my years of teaching U.S. history survey courses in college, I have emphasized the fact that many colonists in what became the United States remained loyal to the British Empire during the American Revolutionary period.  In stating this plainly I have manifested fidelity to objective reality.  I have also instructed pupils both orally and in writing not to write of “the colonists” as if all colonists were of one political mind and warned these students.  Nevertheless, many students have not heeded my instructions to write of the past accurately in their essays.  I have graded those essays accordingly.

Another fault of misusing “the” is applying it in the spirit of invective.

The ______s insert negative stereotype here.

Infamously, for example, the Gospel of John mentions “the Jews” (in most English-language translations), although the Greek word is actually a geographical term sometimes.  Whether the term should be “the Jews” or “the Judeans” in English in any given verse, the issue of invective remains.  In the case of the Gospel of John, how can one avoid reading those passages without considering the millennia of Christian anti-Semitism inspired partially by the invective in that text?

In 2017 we continue to have problems with invective, often expressed with the misuse of the definite article.  Human nature is constant, after all.  One might engage in partisan invective, for example.  Or one might be a racist or some other variety of bigot, perhaps with regard to religion.  Or maybe one might be merely an unrepentant ethnocentrist and Nativist.  Either way, one engages in stereotyping, thereby overlooking the diversity inherent in any population.  One therefore engages in the sin of judging others.  One also makes objectively false statements.

Shall we strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and to think, speak, and write objectively correctly?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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