On the Quality of Education

(Disclaimer–I am writing this on the bus.)

Tonight in my literature seminar, people were beginning to freak out about the first paper–a whopping 1500 words of analytical glee. The professor asked how many of us were confident in or had a strong background in writing analytical papers. The number of positive responses was dismally small.

As I sat in class and listened to her talking about how to analyze, one thought stuck in my head–I got a DAMN good education at Parkside. I wish everyone could realize just HOW good it is.

One thing I have frequently gotten asked since coming here is where I went to school for my BA. I tell them, and I hear “Where?” Yup. It’s this middle of nowhere school that no one here has heard of. At first I felt really weird about it–like I was a poser who doesn’t belong here. What I’m realizing now is that that’s okay. I didn’t come from a big name school. It’s nowhere near the top ten of anything, because no one has ever heard of it. But I know what an analytical thesis is. I can create one and support it. I can structure a paper that makes sense and present a solid, coherent argument. I can craft a topic sentence. I can analyze. I couldn’t do that before my time at Parkside. I look at my first analytical papers, and I laugh at how much I’ve grown. Suddenly, timid me who thought I would fail my first Literary Analysis paper (I got a 92) is in a position to teach other in my cohort what analysis means. Some friends requested I send out a paper; D says I will scare the crap out of them. I say that’s only fair; that first paper scared the crap out of me. But I grew from it. They will grow too.

I’ve been researching for a piece I’m writing on gender, and I’ve come across some interesting things about the different “tiers” of university. There’s the big leagues–school like Harvard and such that are top notch at what appears to be all the things, focusing largely on research. There’s the middle tier, which is schools that also seem to be research-focused, but are not as well known or prestigious. And then there’s the bottom tier. That’s the liberal arts schools, like Parkside–and these are the schools that focus largely on teaching. This system creates a problem where the professors in the lower tier can teach the SHIT out of their subjects but not advance, because the teaching load is too great and there is zero time for research. However, in the upper tier, there are professors who are so research focused that they delegate everything to TAs and can’t even tell you a single student’s name. Which of these things is better? Which is more important? There’s a lot to be said for the imparting of knowledge, and while research and publishing are also important, to me at least, it is the quality of teaching that will always win. And I had amazing teachers.

I guess what I’m trying to say is simply thank you. Whether I had you for one class or many (I’m looking at you, D), I learned something from you that I can’t translate fully to this page. I’ve grown up brain-wise, and I’m in this program because y’all helped me to get here. What you do is important, research or no research, high course load or low, crappy students or good ones. It’s about that moment where a student gets it, and what coming to New York and being in graduate school has taught me thus far is that I, most definitely, get it.

So, thanks. :).

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