Generation gap

October 15, 2015

The views of academics on how to engage with sullen students show that there is nothing new under the sun (“How to engage with sullen students”, Features, 8 October).

The Cambridge Review was pretty cynical about the lack of academic engagement by students in 1966: “The individual attention, the stimulation and encouragement, the gentle rebuke, the subtle widening of the issue and the abrupt demand for evidence, all this and much more has come to represent, to some at any rate, the ultimate in higher education. The reality, as most of us know, is very different. The inadequacy of the lectures has to be supplemented, indeed often replaced, by a less formal exposition; the student’s difficulty in working out the technical points on his own must be eased; he must be spared the need to extract from the books the information he needs; we must see in effect that he has learnt his piece for the week.”

The problem in essence is that undergraduate students are themselves, not us. They are young adults with concerns different from our professional ones. Since time immemorial it has been this way, and when some of them become lecturers they too will be writing articles in Times Higher Education about the difficulties of teaching another generation. Such is life.

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