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美国高等教育领域最为惊人的转变——讨好学生

更新时间:2016-6-24 10:04:36 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

In College Turmoil, Signs of a Changed Relationship With Students
美国高等教育领域最为惊人的转变——讨好学生

Given all that has happened on so many campuses over the last few years, it’s hard to pick the one that has been roiled the most by struggles over political correctness. But Oberlin College would certainly be in the running.

鉴于过去数年间不平静的校园实在太多,很难说哪一所学校是被关于政治正确的争斗搅动得最厉害的。但欧柏林大学(Oberlin College)绝对应该进入候选名单。

A widely discussed series of events there included the demand for a so-called trigger warning to students who might be upset reading “Antigone”; complaints about the ethnic integrity of the sushi in a campus dining hall; and a petition, signed by 1,300 students, calling for a semester in which the lowest possible grade was a C, so that anyone skipping classes or skimping on studies to engage in social activism wouldn’t pay too steep an academic price.

这里的一系列事件都受到了广泛讨论:校方曾被要求对可能在阅读《安提歌尼》(Antigone)时感到心烦意乱的学生发出所谓的触发预警;接到过关于一间校园食堂的投诉,认为那里的寿司做得相当不讲民族工艺操守;还收到一份请愿书,敦促其设置一个最低成绩只能为“C”的学期,以便让那些逃课或为了参加社会活动而错过上课的人不必在学业方面付出过于高昂的代价,共有1300名学生在请愿书上签名。

In the view of more than a few observers, these students were taking liberalism to illiberal extremes. But their actions were arguably proof of something else as well.

许多观察人士都认为,这些学生把自由主义变成了狭隘的极端主义。但他们的行为还证明了别的东西。

Students at Oberlin and their counterparts elsewhere might not behave in such an emboldened fashion if they did not feel so largely in charge. Their readiness to press for rules and rituals to their liking suggests the extent to which they have come to act as customers — the ones who set the terms, the ones who are always right — and the degree to which they are treated that way.

欧柏林的学子以及其他大学的学生,如果没觉得自己基本上掌控了一切,或许就不会如此大胆地行事。动辄敦促校方按其喜好设定规则和秩序,说明他们在很大程度上表现出了消费者的样子——即设定条件的一方,永远正确的一方——也说明他们在很大程度上正被当成消费者来对待。

Twinned with colleges’ innovations to attract and serve a new generation of students is a changed relationship between the schools and the schooled. It’s one of the most striking transformations in higher education over the last quarter-century.

大学正通过创新吸引并服务于新一代学子,与此同时,学校和学生之间的关系发生了变化。这是过去四分之一世纪里,高等教育领域最为惊人的转变。

It’s manifest in students’ interactions with colleges even before they enroll, as those institutions, intent on increasing the number of applications they receive and on snagging as many valedictorians, class presidents and soccer captains as they can, come at them as merchants, clamoring for their attention, competing for their affection and unfurling their wares with as much ceremony and gloss as possible.

这种转变甚至在学生入学前与学校的互动中就有所体现。为了增加本校收到的入学申请数量,并尽可能招揽到更多的最佳毕业生、年级长和足球队长,那些学校像商贩一样来到学生面前,想要引起他们的注意,博取他们的好感,并使出浑身解数展示自己的‘货品’。

And what wares those are. Colleges have spruced up dormitories and diversified dining options, so that students unwind in greater comfort and ingest with more choice than ever before. To lure students and keep them content, colleges have also fashioned state-of-the-art fitness centers, sophisticated entertainment complexes and other amenities with a relevance to learning that is oblique at best.

都有哪些‘货品’呢?许多大学都装修了宿舍,并提供多样化的餐饮选择,这样一来学生就能在更加舒适的环境中放松身心,也能尽情享用花样更为繁多的餐点。为了招揽学生,并让他们满意,一些大学还配备了一流的健身中心、装备精良的娱乐中心,以及其他的便利设施,而这些东西和学习之间的关联相当薄弱。

High Point University in North Carolina is in the midst of an upgrade of more than $2 billion that includes millions toward amusements like a putting green, a game arcade, an ice cream truck and a theater with free movies and free popcorn.

北卡罗莱纳州高点大学(High Point University)正进行耗资逾20亿美元的升级换代,其中数以百万美元计的资金被用来建造休闲设施,譬如一片果岭,一个游戏厅,一辆冰淇淋车,一家可以免费看电影吃爆米花的电影院。

Campus water parks — with pools, slides and man-made rivers — have become just common enough that when Louisiana State University recently plotted its own, it decided that the river should spell out the letters L.S.U., so that it was no mere mimic of all those other, lesser collegiate waterways.

有着游泳池、滑梯和人造河流的校园水上公园如今已经变得颇为常见。路易斯安那州立大学(Louisiana State University)不久前规划自己的水上公园时,决定用人造河流拼出“LSU”字样,这样一来就不仅仅是对其他学校的水上公园的简单模仿,而且会让它们相形见绌。

“We devote all these resources to creating, basically, country clubs with libraries,” Barry Schwartz, a longtime professor of psychology at Swarthmore, told me. Swarthmore, he said, has resisted the trend more than other colleges — no water park there — but has not been immune to it. No institution is, and Mr. Schwartz placed much of the blame on sharp increases in tuition and other expenses. When families are asked to pay $60,000 or more a year, the transaction takes on a more bluntly commercial aspect.

“我们投入所有这些资源打造出来的,基本是带有图书馆的乡村俱乐部,”斯沃斯莫尔学院(Swarthmore)长期致力于心理学研究的教授巴里·施瓦茨(Barry Schwartz)告诉我。比起别的学校,他说,斯沃斯莫尔学院较为抗拒这种趋势——那里没有水上公园——但并未完全免疫。没有任何一家学校能够免疫,施瓦茨认为这种情况在很大程度上是由学费和其他费用的上涨造成的。当学生家里一年需要支付6万美元或更多学费的时候,相关交易就具有了明显的商业色彩。

“Costs go up,” Mr. Schwartz said. “Parents expect to get value for money. They measure value in a different way. We provide that value, which raises costs, which creates more demand, and the cycle continues.”

“费用上涨了,”施瓦茨说,“家长们就希望物有所值。他们衡量价值的方法各不相同。我们提供那种价值,就推高费用,进而催生出更多需求,如此循环往复。”

But amenities aren’t all that is different. The interactions and balance of power between student and teacher are as well. I don’t recall ever filling out a professor evaluation when I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the mid-1980s. It’s possible that such forms existed, but they were not used consistently or presented to us with any sense of urgency.

但不同以往的不仅仅是校园里的便利设施。我记得自己在1980年代初就读于北卡罗来纳大学教堂山分校(University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)时,从未填写过评估教授教学表现的表格。这类表格当时可能存在,但并未得到持续利用,也没有人带着哪怕一点点急迫之情将其拿给我们。

The opposite was true when I taught at Princeton in the spring of 2014. Students could not see their grades for a given class until they had filled out an extensive report card, including numerical ratings, on the class and on the instructor or had formally declined to do so, which few did. The instructor was privy to those ratings, with the students’ names erased.

等到2014年秋天,我在普林斯顿大学(Princeton)教书时,情况反转了过来。学生要想看到特定科目的成绩,必须填写内容广泛的报告卡,给该科目及授课教师等多个方面打分,或者正式拒绝填写报告卡——很少有人会这样做。学生打出的分数被传达给授课教师,但打分者的名字会被抹去。

I’m told by many of the professors I know that this practice is more or less the norm. Coupled with websites on which students rate their teachers, it has enormous bearing on how fully enrolled an instructor’s classes are, on his or her reputation and — thus — on his or her career. And what is perhaps the greatest driver of student satisfaction with a professor? The greatest guarantor of glowing reviews? The marks that the professor doles out. Small wonder that grade inflation is so pronounced and rampant, with A’s easy to come by and anything below a B-minus rare.

我认识的很多教授都说,这差不多是通行的做法。这种惯例,连同供学生给老师打分的网站,会极大地影响一名教师的课程能否吸引到足够多的学生,并影响他或她的声誉——从而影响他或她的职业生涯。什么东西最有可能让学生对教授感到满意?什么东西最有可能带来如潮的好评?是教授打出的分数。因此,分数虚高的情况如此显眼、如此普遍,就没有什么好奇怪的了——学生很容易就能得到“A”,“B-”以下的成绩难得一见。

Students get the message that they call the shots. Catharine Bond Hill, the president of Vassar, told me that when she began teaching in the 1980s, students never came in to complain about grades. “And back then,” she added, “you could get a C.”

学生接收到的信息是,一切都由他们做主。瓦萨学院(Vassar College)的校长凯瑟琳·邦德·希尔(Catharine Bond Hill)告诉我,她在1980年代开始授课的时候,学生从来不会跑来抱怨分数太低。她还说,“那时候,你可能拿到‘C’。”

“Now students will come in and complain about a B-plus,” she said.

“如今,学生会跑来抱怨自己得了一个‘B-’,”她说。

That’s not all bad. Students should absolutely have a voice in their education, and guaranteeing them one keeps professors and administrators accountable. “Faculty can be very resistant to change,” Mr. Schwartz said, “and ‘entitled’ students apply needed pressure.”

这也并非完全是坏事。学生对自己的教育绝对该有发言权,而且可以用这种办法来督促教授和管理人员,让他们更加负责。“教职人员可能会非常抗拒改变,”施瓦茨说,“而自认握有权利的学生会对他们施加必要的压力。”

The old approach certainly wasn’t perfect. “Professors used to be a bit of a priesthood,” Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who has written extensively about campus unrest over recent years, told me. “That could dissuade challenge and argument.” Both are essential to learning.

旧有的做法显然并不完美。“教授以前有点儿像是神职人员,”以近年来的校园骚乱为题写过大量文章的社会心理学家乔纳森·海特(Jonathan Haidt)告诉我。“这可能会让质疑和争论受到压制。”而这两者对学习而言都是必不可少的。

The rightful passing of that paradigm created a need for new ones, and Mr. Haidt said that the two in vogue now were “the therapeutic model and the consumer model.” In accordance with the first of those, students regard colleges as homes and places of healing. In accordance with the second, they regard colleges as providers of goods that are measurable and of services that should meet their specifications.

那种模式顺理成章地过时之后,就产生了对新模式的需求,海特说当前最盛行的两种分别是“治疗模式和消费者模式”。在第一种模式中,学生把大学当成家和治愈场所。在第二种模式中,学生把大学当成供应商——提供具有可量度性的商品和理应达到其要求的服务。

And that has imperfections all its own, the best laundry list of which appeared in “Customer Mentality,” an essay by Nate Kreuter, an assistant professor of English at Western Carolina University, that was published by Inside Higher Ed in 2014.

这种模式本身有许多不足之处。西卡罗莱纳大学(Western Carolina University)英语系助理教授內特·克罗伊特尔(Nate Kreuter)在题为《消费者心态》(Customer Mentality)的文章里对此做了很好的总结。这篇文章于2014年发表在了《高等教育界》(Inside Higher Ed)上。

He noted a “hesitance to hold students accountable for their behavior,” be it criminal or a violation of what is too frequently a “laughable university honor code.” He noted an expectation among many students that their purchase of a college education should be automatically redeemable for a job, as if college were that precisely vocational and the process that predictable.

他提到,校方“会在该让学生对其行为负责之际犹豫不决”——不论后者是犯了罪,还是违反了常常“颇为可笑的大学里的道义规定”。他还指出,许多学生都抱有这样一种期望:他们购买大学教育之后,自然能够得到一份工作。仿佛上大学本身就是精准的职业培训,仿佛这个过程是可以预料的。

“That’s simply not how life works,” he said in a recent interview. “So we have a lot of students who are disenchanted.”

“生活显然不是这样的,”他最近接受采访时说。“所以我们会看到很多感到幻灭的学生。”

But what does the customer model do to their actual education?

但消费者模式会对他们的实际教育状况产生怎样的影响呢?

“There’s a big difference between teaching students and serving customers,” said Mr. Schwartz at Swarthmore. “Teachers know things, and they should be telling students what’s worth knowing and what’s not, not catering to demands.”

“教导学生和服务消费者之间有着巨大的差异,”斯沃斯莫尔学院的施瓦茨教授说。“老师见多识广,他们应该告诉学生哪些东西值得学,哪些不值得学,而非迎合需求。”

Too often, he said, “we’ve given students a sense that they’re in just as good a position to know what’s worth knowing as we are, and we’ve contributed to the weakening of student resilience, because we’re so willing to meet their needs that they never have to suffer. That makes them incredibly vulnerable when things go wrong, as they invariably do.” He was speaking in the context of sharp upticks at many colleges in the number of students reporting anxiety and depression and turning to campus mental health clinics for help.

但极其常见的情况是,他说,“我们让学生以为,他们有能力像我们一样知道哪些东西值得学。我们还对学生的适应力越来越差负有责任,因为我们总是竭力满足他们的需求,以致于他们从来没有遭受过挫折。这样一来,等到出了岔子的时候,他们就会变得惊人地脆弱。而岔子常常是不可避免的。”他说这番话的背景是,在许多大学里,出现焦虑和抑郁症状并前往校园心理健康诊所寻求帮助的学生人数急剧增加。

“I see this as a collective abdication of intellectual and even moral responsibility,” he said.

“我将其视为对智识乃至道德责任的一并放弃。”

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