“Eighty percent of success is showing up” — Physics of Energy and the Environment, Winter 2023

4 thoughts on ““Eighty percent of success is showing up” — Physics of Energy and the Environment, Winter 2023”

  1. Serious apathy and disengagement affect about 25% of my dental students, who should be very engaged in learning because their competence depends on their knowledge, skill, and attitude. I’ve spent thousands of hours grading practical exams and writing detailed notes, but students have picked them up and thrown them in the trash, without even looking at them. The inconsistencies, paradoxes, contradictions, and challenges of higher education are piling up, and, because of the cost, the public is beginning to take notice.

    1. Even in a professional school (dentistry)! I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. Your last sentence is great, and I wonder whether the “piling up” will lead to constructive change, or just more apathy.

      1. Constructive change is not in sight; the apathy will be coated with a word salad of “excellence,” which is a word that has lost all meaning. Carol S. Dweck’s “fixed mindset” has taken hold in higher education. Double standards have not worked, so we quickly slipped to a new, lower standard. Maintaining any standard is difficult; it is not a passive act. Energy must be pumped into a system to sustain it. So, to make up for lack of student engagement, the faculty must pump in more and more energy, to no avail. Knowledge does not transfer across impermeable brain boundaries.

  2. Your chart of “engagement” reflects a shocking decline in, what, a decade or two? I don’t know if that really reflects a broader trend in engagement. Not that I doubt engagement is low, but my experience during my undergrad 30yrs ago was that engagement was low then. Most students didn’t give a crap about learning anything. I think it’s possible that the trend you’re seeing in your data is a broader trend in society about the topic in general and perhaps about the intransigence in the political world to address it. Also I might guess that your data goes back just about to the emergence of fracking, so “energy shortage” fear has eased if not evaporated.

    I TAd tons of labs in grad school and taught in community college for a year after leaving grad school. I feel like I always had very strong engagement relative to my own classmates when I was in those classes. My experience is that, beyond the intellectual upper crust of the class – the people who are always interested and engaged – there is a group that engages with the personality of the instructor. If you connect with them, they’ll work very hard. They want to impress you personally. Lots of kids that age are kind of, I dunno, maybe cynical is roughly the right word. It’s the time in life when they notice lots of bothersome contradictions in the world. I guess I found it natural to joke with them about it. Your topic is perfect for that. I mean first you have the undeniable reality of climate change, about which very little is being done – and much of what is being done is..mmm…not useful. But second you have the world awash in oil and natural gas, which were both “supposed” to be in decline by now. And of course third you have the contradiction of nuclear energy – an obvious source of a massive amount of energy which – like global warming policy – is being crushed by political stupidity on both sides of the aisle. So you have all these contradictions that you can exploit by mocking the dorkery that’s propagating misinformation about energy. Kids are very sensitive to those contradictions, they’re worried about it deep down, which makes it a great subject for humor and for engagement.

    BTW, I left CC teaching because the pay is just terrible, but also because the people who do contract teaching are out of touch with reality. There was one guy at my CC who was like early 30s living with his parents teaching contract geography for six or seven years. I mean come on. Face reality. Teaching pay will never rise with people like that around. Then 20 years later they’re complaining bcz they have no retirement. Another funny thing about that: earlier this year I closed and withdrew the ridiculous $1600 in my TIAA retirement account. They do everything conceivable to stop you from taking that money out. I made an effort to do it about five years ago but got bogged down by their requirement that I have permission from the employer who deposited it!!! This time when they tried to pull that I said: I don’t give a (hoot) about that rule, I left that job 25 years ago, you will cut the (darn) check! Then amazingly she was able to discover that my termination was on file! It took less than a minute. That’s part of the racket. I’m sure TIAA is lobbying for dozens and dozens more university deans.

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