My time at Northwestern State University has been very good to me. It has helped shape me into the person I am today, and it will always be near and dear to my heart. Nevertheless we, as a university, both student and faculty, are selling ourselves short.
This school has geared generations of students towards success, and yes, those successes should be celebrated. Recent infrastructural additions, an approachable and compassionate faculty, and an overall welcoming environment all point to an institution that cares.
Indeed, our school’s motto is “Dedicated to one goal: Yours.” But despite several successive semesters of record enrollment, I fear this university isn’t equipping its enrollees to actually meet their goals.
In a country where 44 million Americans collectively hold $1.5 trillion in student debt, the last thing we want is to graduate with a degree that doesn’t enable us to find a job which would pay off that debt. Or perhaps just as bad, to hold a Bachelor’s without having the knowledge one should have by the time they’ve obtained that degree.
It’s easy to forget what exactly universities are for, and even why exactly we’re here. For millennia before us, the university was seen as the pinnacle of advanced critical thinking, a place where knowledge is celebrated and pursued. NSU unfortunately exemplifies the opposite.
Whereas less fortunate youth all around the world in peripheral nations long for higher education, we celebrate when our professors cancel class so we can stay at home and watch Netflix. Sometimes we even skip class because we’re so hungover from the night before.
I fear we are a student body that, by and large, does not value academia as it should. Perhaps this trend is generational, but I suspect region also plays a part. Louisiana has some of the lowest educational rates in the nation. If our leaders don’t prioritize education, why would anyone down the totem pole prioritize it?
See, the problem isn’t simply with us, the students; it is institutional.
Many of our teachers, while well-intentioned, do not stay on topic in the classroom. They lead the class in talking about their personal lives, Natchitoches gossip or off-topic discussion regarding politics and culture. It’s no wonder that we often don’t get to cover everything outlined in the syllabus.
Ask yourself: How many times have you attended a class and left it having learned only the bare minimum?
Have you ever, like myself, grown frustrated by required attendance to a class whose instructor rambles on throughout about matters that have nothing to do with the course material?
I, personally, have been in an Economics class where the professor chose to talk about the latest political news.
I’ve been in an English class where the class simply discussed the latest campus gossip. And this is what we’re paying thousands of dollars for?
It’s not just off-topic discussions that are holding us back. Sometimes we are on-topic and the quality of the class is simply low, with the professor not clearly defining what it is we should be learning or not doing enough to challenge the students sitting in on the lecture.
The result? Bright minds grow bored. They take out their cell phones to scroll through Facebook and Twitter, and who can blame them? After all, they’re not even receiving the education that they’re paying so much for.
What I am describing is a campus climate distinct to NSU, and it is on both the student and the faculty to call for changes to be implemented.
While certainly not every student will share my concerns or experiences, I’ve talked with enough of my fellow Demons to know this is a problem. The solution, from my point of view, is clear.
We need stronger oversight of what our teachers are saying and doing in the classroom. I have not put myself thousands of dollars in debt to discuss their personal lives or views of the modern culture.
They are being paid for the service of instruction, and they need to be doing a better job of that.
On the other hand, we as students should not only take our studies more seriously, but the hard truth is that we need more strenuous homework assignments.
That means more 10-page essays instead of three. (We all know how easy it is to fill three pages with nothing but fluff, and that’s not learning.)
We need worksheets that will require us to read and truly wrestle with what is written in our textbooks, not just find an easily-located vocabulary term.
I don’t say any of this to bad-mouth my alma mater, nor take away from NSU’s very real accomplishments, of which we should all be proud.
NSU is known for its top-notch nursing program, and our performing artists are among the best in the state for a reason.
The people who run this school go out of their way to open doors for its attendees, and I am very grateful to NSU for helping shape me into the man I am today.
That said, if dramatic changes aren’t made to our curriculums, this same tired cycle will just keep repeating itself. The diploma they tell us we’ve earned will be nothing more than a piece of paper, bringing very little advantage to us in the real world.