What a former college instructor really thinks…

Posts tagged “comedy

Niekrophilia: The Love of Dead Cultural References

Phil Niekro is a Hall of Fame baseball player who was active from 1964 to 1987; he was quite popular in his day.  If you’re at least semi-conscious, you will immediately understand how flat a reference to him would fall with a group of today’s undergraduate students.  And let’s be honest: is this the kind of history you’d prefer these students to spend their time becoming more knowledgeable about?  I thought not… but if it is, I think you may suffer from Niekrophilia.

Niekrophilia is the love of dead cultural references and of information that ought to be left for dead when compared to the more important information today’s students lack.  Unfortunately, many of today’s professors don’t understand the difference between what is really significant and what is not.  And it goes without saying that many students, when given a choice between an intellectual corpse (such as “Critical Analysis of Baseball Personae”) and a living, breathing body (such as Judicial Philosophy and Constitutional Analysis), choose the corpse when both appear in a course catalog.  Students love corpses; the way some students behave, it’s as though they want to become corpses sooner rather than later.  The problem with corpses is that they aren’t very useful or enlightening, unless of course you’re stranded on a desert island and light one up on the campfire for dinner.

But I digress.

The love of corpses has taken over the American academy.  If it were simply aging professors who forget that today’s students aren’t into their old favorites, it would be less of a problem.  Dead cultural references aren’t dangerous when they’re thrown around in passing.   But instead, some professors are obsessed with these corpses and they haven’t quite realized that corpses don’t reproduce knowledge very well.   Knowledge is, and has always been, the professor’s baby.  Unfortunately, babies aren’t being made any more and many professors seem fine with that.

Postscript: My apologies go out to Phil Niekro, who is still very much alive.  This post was not meant to reflect badly on him in any way.

A Public Service Announcement for Students who don’t Bathe

Dear Students,

Here at the university, we pride ourselves on making sure that the focus always stays where it belongs: on YOU!  You are the reason we are here and it is our job to make sure you receive all the attention you deserve.   We even think it’s important to give you ideas for how to make yourself stand out in the crowd… not that you don’t already.

For that reason, we would like to issue some public words of encouragement to our students who never make use of their shower.  (The dorm maintenance crew would also like to express their heartfelt gratitude.)  You enter our classes with what appears to be an impressive sun tan.  It makes you look hot and the professors can barely keep their hands off of you.  But alas, it’s not a sun tan and it emits a fragrance that makes you the center of attention instead of the professor.  That’s what student-centered education is really all about.

Those of us in the animal protection community would also like to thank you for your commitment to our cause.  You show us that we should be kind to all animals, whether they’re cute like puppies or ugly like head lice.  You are an inspiration to us all.

In closing, the university administration wants you, the unwashed student, to continue doing what you do best.  Be proud of your hygienic accomplishments and stand tall, for eventually you will choke on your own cloud of dust.

Only the best die young.

Pyrotechnics: The Next Big Thing in Classroom Technology

Universities love to advertise their instructional technology resources.  In the flashy brochures they send out to high schoolers, the trumpet the educational benefits of the high-tech classrooms and computer labs they offer on campus.  All this technology is said to have an inherently positive effect on student learning.  Behind the scenes, it is said to increase student engagement and allow students to get more up-close-and-personal with the content they’re studying.

I couldn’t agree more.   Because more technology is always better, I think universities should go for the flashiest equipment possible… and that would be pyrotechnics.  The fire mimics the media students so often take in during their free time, so it’s obviously logical to incorporate that into the classroom; we should never expect students to expand their attention spans in the classroom.  And for instructors who have to teach at 8:00 AM, what else could possibly rouse students from their slumber more effectively than a raging inferno before their eyes?  Just imagine how many students the university could attract with a giant fireball on its advertisements.

Of course, there is more to teaching that grabbing the students’ attention.  I truly believe that pyrotechnics offer a way of understanding course material that no other teaching method can beat.  If your class is studying Dante’s Inferno, you could simulate the experience for them in the classroom.  (Okay, okay… I know that many students think sitting in class is like being in Hell.  This would just improve the experience.)  Pyrotechnics also can allow students to witness, first hand, the horrors of book burning that have taken place at various points in history.  Trust me, books will burn (intentionally or not) if you put pyrotechnics in a classroom building.

Pyrotechnics also have one additional advantage over other instructional technologies: they are cost-efficient.  If you use the method just once, you no longer have to pay for utilities or maintenance for that ash heap your class formerly took place in.  And then you can pass the savings on to students in the form of a tuition reduction.  See?  It really is a win-win situation for everyone.

Proposed Phys. Ed. Course: Sumo Wrestling for Anorexics

As educators, we should always strive to encourage students to do whatever they want and feel proud of their inevitable success.  It is inappropriate for us to criticize any attributes they possess that might cause them harm.  We’re in the happy business and it makes us feel good!


That is why I am proposing that we offer a special physical education course specifically for anorexics.  Anorexic students don’t have much muscle mass (I don’t mean to be judgmental… sorry), which means that they’re not going to be good at most athletic pursuits.  In contrast, sumo wrestling is a truly egalitarian sport.  It doesn’t matter how big or small you are; if we can find someone who weighs the same as you, it’s a fair match-up.  But you might protest: anorexics usually view themselves as fat.  Why on earth would you assign them to a sport that is normally pursued by fat people?  It’s really very simple.  Put a “normal-weight” person in the course and the anorexic will inevitably lose that match.  With an anorexic group of students, losing is the one thing that will help their self-esteem.  What’s the obvious rationalization for losing?  “I lost the match because I wasn’t fat enough.”


In fairness, we have to be careful how we market this course.  The University prohibits any commentary that might be viewed as disparaging to a student’s body type.  (Administrators say they want you to act when you see that someone is anorexic, but those “speech codes” make it nearly impossible.)  So even though anorexia can kill these kids before they ever get a chance to graduate, we have to accept that their psychological disease is not a disease, but an unfair cultural label that is foisted upon them.  We must allow these kids to feel good about themselves and their self-destructive choices.  Who are we to say what weight is “normal?”   “Normal” is relative.

Fun with Credit Cards: A Public Service Announcement for College Freshmen

College students are often inundated with well-meaning friends and family members who warn them about the “excessive” use of credit cards.  As an instructor, I always thought students would be better off is they use credit cards as much as possible.  Let me explain:


There are a lot of wonderful things in life that college students can’t enjoy without a credit card.  The latest iPhone, backstage passes to see Lady Gaga, a trip to Bermuda for spring break… how many students can really afford this with the pittance Mom and Dad give them?   And if you think piling on debt will have negative personal consequences, think again!  According to researchers, increased debt results in higher self-esteem.  ( http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/osu-wmw060611.php ) Self-esteem is a critically important goal of higher education and I, as an instructor, would have been wrong not to encourage anything that helps kids feel good about themselves.


So, my dear young ones, go out and spend all the money you want.  Then go back to your dorm room and study hard because you’re going to need a good job to pay all that off.  (You knew there had to be a catch, didn’t you?)