Teaching Qualifications

It really pains me that I have to explain to colleagues why it’s a ridiculous idea to have college professors teach (for credit and in an obligatory way for all students!) things like “stress management” and “financial literacy for college students.” The idea of me lecturing anybody – professionally or for fun – on either of these things is crazy, to say the least.

There is also a subject like “living and studying in a diverse environment.” WTF does this even mean?

Also, how about liability? When professors of Spanish literature (or physics, or history, or anything else besides the actual disciplines that study these subjects) dispense advice on mental health or personal finance in the classroom, how will we defend this practice if somebody follows this advice and gets in trouble?

The only advice I can give on managing stress is find an analyst at $160 per hour, which is not very relevant to our students. And the only advice on personal finance is marry someone who understands money and has it and get your spouse to organize your finances. Which, once again, is quite ridiculous. It worked for me but you know?

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15 thoughts on “Teaching Qualifications”

  1. Stress management is ridiculous, but I can imagine an economics or accounting professor teaching financial literacy.

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    1. Of course, a professor of economics would be great for it. But the plan is to force everybody, irrespective of their field, to teach all of these things within a single obligatory course

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  2. All students at my school are supposed to take a puff class in a “lifelong learning and self-discovery” category. It is a required GE category. (Seriously.) One option is basically a “Your major 101” class. I teach it and make lemonade out of lemons: I let someone from Student Affairs do a couple of sessions on “stress management” and whatnot, and the rest of the time I have them learning stuff they’ll need to survive in my major: How to write lab reports, how to analyze data, how to apply for internships in the field, and also readings on career paths in the field.

    If any administrator were to bug me I would say “Oh, yes, we had [insert latest touchy-feely person from Student Affairs] talk about stress management, per the requirements!” And if they asked about the rest of the class sessions I’d say something about “Learner-centric activities to develop 21st century skills” and the idiots would smile and nod and say how amazing and progressive that is.

    And then I’d go back to teaching physics majors about analyzing data because, duh, they’re physics majors.

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    1. Here you at least are teaching your majors. For us, it’s going to be students who have no academic interests in common.

      We are destroying our Interdisciplinary courses in order to finance this insanity.

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  3. Our students are required to take a two credit course in their first semester on campus called Success at University. I believe it includes things like time management, study habits, university rules, how to navigate the bureaucracy and the various resources available on campus. It’s completely online and must be completely automated because one person is the instructor for all of the students. I think it must be useful or really easy to complete because I’ve never heard a student complain about having to do it.

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    1. One would hope, but they would probably put a “lead teacher” in nominal charge who had expertise in area, and let things go on as before.

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    2. Judging by the response, it never occurred to anybody that you need to be qualified to teach these things. Colleagues seem to think these are some sort of “common sense” topics that anybody can teach. Nobody even brought it up before I did.

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      1. Judging by the response, it never occurred to anybody that you need to be qualified to teach these things. Colleagues seem to think these are some sort of “common sense” topics that anybody can teach. Nobody even brought it up before I did.

        Along these lines, a Professor of Anthropology I knew some years ago was at a small college prior to joining the University of Delaware faculty. He tole me that at his previous institution, the view was that any educated person could teach Algebra and Trigonometry as well as Freshman English Composition. Therefore, these courses were assigned to faculty without regard to their expertise or specialties.

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        1. How marvelously yesteryear and quaint! I could actually do both although it would not be the most practical use of my time. But that is because of actually having training and experience in freshman comp. and because of having gotten out of science requirements in college (lack of patience with labs and wicked sabotaging premeds) by taking calculus and linear algebra. (Nobody could believe my math GRE scores but you can get them if you’ve taken coursework.) So yes, at one time, an educated person could have done these things.

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          1. I’m sure I could teach algebra a lot better than I would financial literacy. Especially if I were allowed to talk about the history of the discipline.

            But the problem here is deprofessionalization. If everybody is qualified to teach everything, the next step will be to start firing people and saddling those who left with more unpaid work.

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  4. These are TA or orientation sessions if at all.
    It really pains me that I have to explain to colleagues why it’s a ridiculous idea to have college professors teach (for credit and in an obligatory way for all students!) things like “stress management” and “financial literacy for college students.” The idea of me lecturing anybody – professionally or for fun – on either of these things is crazy, to say the least.

    There is also a subject like “living and studying in a diverse environment.” WTF does this even mean?

    Stress Management = Get some exercise, sleep regular hours, eat a balanced diet, talk to friends and take advantage of the free 10 minute massages during finals in the commons. Don’t binge drink, do drugs or start rawdogging people of your preferred gender.

    Financial Literacy = Make a budget. Read your online statements. Don’t spend all your student loan money on dumb shit. Don’t gamble and don’t sign up for a 33% APR credit card when you don’t have real money coming in in exchange for a tee-shirt.

    Living and Studying in a Diverse Environment = Use your words instead of saying dumb shit that’ll get you and this school dragged on social media.

    Sadly, there are people whose parents neglected to teach them this stuff.

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  5. We have a “how to do college” course required of all Liberal Arts and Sciences students in their first semester. There’s a lead instructor (the director of that program), but most of the teaching is done by unpaid undergraduate interns who are each responsible for a section of 25 students. The interns find it a valuable learning experience. The students taking it find it pretty useless. The assumption seems to be that if you dump a whole lot of information on students in their first semester of college (where the counseling center is, how to study, how to write a resume, how to use the library, why they have to take gen ed classes, where to find various resources), then they’ll know if for the rest of their time here. I don’t think learning actually works that way, but they don’t ask me.

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