Sunday, August 23, 2009

Do Students Still Applaud Their Professors?

I have a memory from my college days of a handful of times when, at the conclusion of a lecture, the students broke into applause. As that was 50 years or so in the dim dark past, this may be totally inaccurate. But I think it was a combination of the structure of the lecture, coming to a climax of the argument right at the 50 minute mark; the knowledge which was evident during the course of the lecture; and the clarity, passion and enthusiasm of the delivery. I might be conflating applause for the final lecture with applause for lectures during the year, but I'm comfortable David Brion Davis (American intellectual history) and Walter LaFeber (history of foreign policy) both got applause at times.

I wonder if students still do that, or are they too blase, too wrapped up in their laptops?

I suspect maybe Brad DeLong might get applauded occasionally. If not, I hereby applaud his philosophy, as stated here, despite the obvious error in his first sentence:

This is the University of California at Berkeley, the finest public university in the world. You are all upper-middle class or upper class--if not in the size of your parents' houses in your options and expections--and thus much richer than the average taxpayer of California. Yet, even at today's reduced funding levels, the taxpayers of California are spending $10,000 a year subsidizing your education. Why are they doing this? Because they believe that if your brains get crammed full of knowledge and skills than many of you will do great things that will redound to the benefit of the state, the country, and the world. Therefore it is my business to cram your brains full of knowledge and skills. It is then your business to go out and try to do great things--and if those great things happen to involve a lot of money, remember the investment that the poorer-than-you taxpayers of California made in your education, and pass some of the resources you will earn on to your successors here at Berkeley. If I am happy in December with how the course has gone, the median grade will be a low B+. If I am mezza-mezza, the median grade will be a low B. If I am unhappy, the median grade will be a B-. If people don't do the work I assign--or if I were to assign less work--I assure you I will not be happy come December.

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