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Tuesday, June 18
The Indiana Daily Student


Teach students, not facts

My expression écrite teacher likens the mind of a French student to a computer.

“Everything a teacher says, everything you read,” Professor D-bag tells us at least once a week, “you have to file it away, and then click and open the folder when you’re asked a question!”

This is usually said after one of us can’t recall which 16th-century French author said some obscure quote he’d shared with us eight or so weeks ago.

(For the record, I still have no idea what the quote was or who said it – but I consider it a small victory that I even remember it was a 16th-century author. High five, computer brain.)

Unfortunately, this difference between French and American students might literally be the only thing I’ve learned from the man charged with teaching a group of American students the details of the writing we all have to do for French university.

Wait, I take that back. I’ve also learned that he’s very important, wears nice suits and has a Ph.D. in something very respectable, I’m sure.

The very thought of him makes me angry – but what that thought evolves to makes me livid.

Professor D-bag, though an extreme, seems to be symptomatic of the cultural phenomenon that is the French university system.

For an American student studying in Aix, the difference in the approach to education can be one of the hardest bits of culture shock.

Because the universities are all owned by the state, college here is cheap.

The typical student pays around 500 euro a year for tuition, but in a lot of ways, you get what you pay for.

Most superficially, this is evidenced by the state of the campus. Wires hang from the ceilings, graffiti covers the walls and bits of fencing jut out from the first-story windows.

Ugly buildings are easy enough to look past, though – the point, after all, is education.
Turns out they’re not much into that, either.

Stateside, we’ve all had professors far more engrossed in their research than in their students’ knowledge acquisition, the sole purpose of their lectures to highlight the gap between their Ph.D.-wielding selves the and the lowly, ignorant undergrad population.

In France, though – or at least in Aix – they seem to be more of the rule than the exception.

That they’re allowed to be is partly to blame – when the sole method of evaluation is a final exam and the only outside work an impossibly long bibliography, students aren’t the only ones not being held accountable throughout the semester.

Couple that with a total lack of accessibility – office hours are non-existent here, and it’s not uncommon for teachers to say during the first week of classes that it’s pointless to e-mail them, as they won’t respond and likely won’t even read it.

What results is either lazy and apathetic students – or Professor D-bag’s personal favorites, the computers.

After all, just like in the U.S., the ideal student isn’t the one who’s learned the most.
It’s just the one who’s mastered the system.

Maybe someone ought to point out to him that computers can’t think.

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