Specifics of teaching humanities at a technical university: the view of an experienced teacher

Specifics of teaching humanities at a technical university: the view of an experienced teacher

Specifics of teaching humanities at a technical university: the view of an experienced teacherOver the years, students are less and less amenable to differentiation: the best few are remembered, for whom you try and give all your best, and the main gray mass is of little joy – at best, they will join the ranks of the rapidly thinning working class, at worst, they will be marginalized and will inexorably slide to the very “bottom” life, where he will spend the rest of his days, if a new Zhirinovsky does not appear on the political arena, ready to lead this pack of offended and undereducated lumpen-proletarians.

A problem that has been chronic for a long time and therefore immediately catches the eye when working with first-year students is the gap between school and university requirements, or more precisely, the unpreparedness and lack of adaptation of applicants to their new environment. First-year students are in no hurry to give up their “nice” school habits, in particular, with the naive confidence that they will continue to be carried around like a sack, trying to persuade intractable teachers to give them a “C” or even an “A” (if we are talking about potential medalists), follow their lead in literally everything.

I’m paying for the institute, or, Why should I study?

Of course, charging tuition fees also plays a negative role. It disciplines and obliges only on the one hand and seriously corrupts on the other. Here is just one typical case: after the first organizational lesson with freshmen, one of the students asked the teacher with sincere surprise: “What, do you still need to study here?”

Of course, preparatory courses, which are not available anywhere today, partially compensate for the lag between the school and the university, but they are not able to eliminate it completely, so a lot of time passes before yesterday’s applicants acquire student psychology. This happens mainly in senior years.

In search of tenderness and love…

Almost for the first time in my own practice, I had the opportunity to encounter groups where young men predominated. 17-18 years old is the age of active exploration of life in all its temptations and a clearly increased interest in the opposite sex. Conversations about the spiritual essence of love and the platonic period of falling in love and courtship are of little use here – something else is required. I have noted more than once that Bunin’s “I came to her at the midnight hour…” even on these hardened cynics and nihilists has a sobering effect and at least partially awakens those “good feelings” that another of our classics once spoke about.

External brutality often masks the convulsive tenderness that guys are shy about. Pinching and hugging in the corridors, pinching and patting the well-known places of classmates do not signal us at all about promiscuity or inability to behave (although where does it come from – a culture of behavior when in the family they teach one thing, at school – another, on the street – a third?!) , but about the desire for love, the desire for it, along with deep complexes with the fear of somehow giving oneself away, discovering it.

Why do I need your culture at all?

Of course, we also had to deal with the attitude towards humanities subjects as unnecessary ballast at the level of the primitive question “Why do we need this?” Some colleagues ignore this issue, others indulge in long, confusing explanations that do not explain anything, but only confuse the essence of the issue.

The need for self-education has not been spoken about now and not by us – but this need is not recognized by everyone and not immediately. For those who are focused on a career, on success, on rising above others, almost nothing needs to be explained – they absorb everything like a sponge and only then will it become clear what will remain in them for a long time, what will remain in them for a few minutes. But these “targeted” ones, as mentioned above, are a clear minority, although working with them is a pleasure.

 The general low culture undoubtedly makes itself felt at all levels of communication with students, and what about students – on a national scale! We often judge by ourselves: since we know this, they should know it too, whereas they still don’t owe anyone anything; this is a generation free from much, almost everything, and certainly completely devoid of the so-called. “intellectual complexes”: lying is bad, stealing is bad, etc.

It’s not common yet, but indigo children still find themselves in classrooms, with whom you need to be especially careful. In a word, a teacher’s personal example means extremely much and it hardly needs any special proof. It happens that people love a subject precisely because of the teacher, thanks to him. They may still understand little about the subject, but they are already reaching out, trying, and deserve praise for at least this effort, even if the final result – the exam grade – will be modest.

It’s still a mystery to me: how modern youth combine down-to-earth, pragmatic thinking (“Will this be on the exam?”) with a kind of infantilism, a naive confidence that they will chew everything and put it in their mouth, they just have to keep it open all the time; that their adult aunts and uncles will do everything for them. However, uncles and aunts are openly afraid of both high school students and students – you never know what’s on their minds, but they have a lot of money…

When there is no time to study…

The issue of low student turnout for classes and the reasons for this was repeatedly raised at general meetings of teachers. Various reasons were given. It seems that one of them was an attempt to combine incompatible things – work and study. I don’t know a single student who has succeeded in such a combination; they inevitably have to sacrifice something, and most often what remains is their studies. That is why in my own practice I never demand any explanations and do not listen to apologies for not showing up for classes – there are plenty of reasons, and if in my eyes they are disrespectful, then for them it is the other way around, because everyone has their own truth.

About iron logic

Another scourge of our time in relation to student youth is the inability to think abstractly and figuratively. How else can we explain that when asked by a sociology teacher, “What is a mobile person?” the answer follows: “a man with a mobile phone.” The logic is ironclad, deadly, absolutely straightforward. Or an example from my own practice: when asked about the reasons for the name “golden age of Russian culture,” a correspondence student answered quite sincerely that they began to award more gold medals in gymnasiums and universities and was just as sincerely perplexed as to why I sent her home.

Where to look for reasons?

Is the school underperforming, is it affecting the family? It seems that fragile minds are influenced to a much greater extent by the media, the so-called. “yellow press”, where everything is presented at face value and even an apology for exaggerated sensations may not follow, and if they do, it will be in small print and not on the front page of the publication.

I note that the audience begins to listen much more attentively when you begin to update the material with stories from personal experience or about what you have seen or heard from others. In Western teaching practice, all this is considered bad form: the teacher is expected to present the material dryly with a minimum of “gag,” because he came to the classroom to help students master knowledge. With us it’s the opposite. I will leave aside the question of whether this is good or bad. For me, one thing is certain – a student, of course, is able to read a paragraph from a textbook on his own, but will he understand what he has read on his own? The question is rhetorical. Dry theory, which cannot be dispensed with in a number of humanities, simply obliges us to “revive” it, and then, you see, thanks to it, it will be better and more firmly assimilated.

The influence of mass culture also affects students’ narrow understanding of creativity, or more precisely, art, because creativity is in the name of the Creator, and art is from the devil, since it is designed to tempt. Unfortunately, even at the level of school head teachers for educational work, this work comes down only to holding discos and KVN-s, which have long exhausted themselves and become obsolete, as if there were no other forms.

This is the specificity of teaching humanities subjects at a technical university. Of course, it is possible and necessary to work with everyone, but only the majority in the audience would have both skills – listening and hearing.

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