In a recent text exchange with Tyler, a graduating senior at a large California state college, we discussed what he’s learning during his final college semester, given his campus is now closed and his professors are learning to teach via an unfamiliar digital learning modality. The following is an excerpt of our conversation:
Since Tyler is taking his final Business Administration classes for his degree, I asked if his professors were addressing the current economic disruption as part of their curriculum:
Jill: Have your classes shifted topics [since campus closed mid-semester] so you guys are discussing the historical economic disruption, which some are calling on par with The Great Depression in the 1920’s, as its happening?
But for our classes, I’ll be honest, we are not prepared for what is happening. Most my classes [professors] are teaching the same things [via digitally], some are barely teaching at all. It sucks to say but I’m graduating this semester basically by default.
Having advised Tyler as a high school senior, we often discussed why he sought to attend college, and what the college degree meant to him. So, I asked:
Jill: And since your professors haven’t changed much [in how they teach their classes], what does that say about the value of your degree?
But I think this [his experince in the final semester] really only furthers my idea that you’re really just there [in college] to get that piece of paper that allows you to move forward with your life.
I don’t think the college really cares about the actual education aspect, as much as they do making sure all the graduating seniors graduate on time.
All four in-person classes dramatically changed their grading criteria, assignments, and due dates to basically allow me to do complete all my school work using very minimal effort. This kind of sucks because these classes are actually the ones that pertain to my major and my interests so I’m not gaining nearly as much as I was when it [class] was in person. That’s why I say I’m graduating by default, because I guarantee you throw a high school freshmen into the mix right now, and they could easily pass the semester’s worth of classes I’m taking, having 0 [zero] prior knowledge.
Other graduating college seniors who I’ve talked with, seem to echo a similar dismay about their final semester. Frustrated after earning the right to take advanced classes within their chosen field of study, only to be denied by many professors given that the norm seems to be now “let seniors graduate by default.” While students in the Class of 2020, like Tyler, understand that everyone, including their professors and administrators, are affected by the health crisis, they are still frustrated about a whimpering finish to a life-long goal. Many more may join those already questioning the purpose of college, especially as they enter into the employment market in search of a job that will be as difficult to find as water in the Sahara at high noon.
Jill Yoshikawa, A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, is meticulous when advising parents and students throughout their educational experiences, no matter the level of complexity.