Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Micheal Bowen & r & My Freshman Yearby Rebekah Nathan & r & Profs know the refrain: Students don't do the assigned reading; leading a discussion in class is like pulling toenails; and then they think they have a right to an A. They paid all that tuition money, you know.


Rebekah Nathan (a pseudonym) decided to do something about it: a fiftysomething anthropology prof at a large state university, she chose to become a freshman all over again -- move into the dorm, eat the cafeteria food, sleep in and cut classes, the whole AnyU experience. In My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student (Cornell Univ. Press), Nathan presents some intriguing findings.


Administrators harp about the value of "community" -- but students value their individuality to such a degree, follow such diverse schedules and cram their rooms with so many of the comforts of home that there is no way they're going to cohere into a community. Resident advisors try to foster community, but dorm room door decorations reveal a subculture that values friendship and freedom from constraints above all else. (Forget about family or, uh, academics.) Besides, students don't have time to study because they're too busy working -- and they're working because tuition went up an inflation-adjusted 25 percent in the '90s.


Nathan gained newfound respect for all the supposed slackers on campus when, one semester, she had eight different instructors in five courses to please while unaccustomed to the shortcuts experienced seniors use in practicing "the art of college management." On the other hand, the vast majority of college students have cheated in a class once; roughly one-sixth of them habitually cheat. Rationalizations are rampant.


Nathan acts too much like an anthropologist at times -- she occasionally piles up too many statistics from her field studies, and there's an anticlimactic coda with much hand-wringing about her own methodology. (Have I invaded my fellow students' privacy?)


But she takes heart in the minorities of students who still take traditional academic pursuits seriously. And she has learned compassion: Her class is not the only one her students are taking, after all. The criteria they use in attempting to cut necessary corners are understandable, if not always pristine in practice.


Yet despite the failure of academic approaches to building community -- those let's-all-read-the-same-text-in-freshman-seminars programs don't work, Nathan finds -- My Freshman Year really is a book that every college instructor should read and discuss.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Rich Man, Poor Men
  • Rich Man, Poor Men

    Can the wealthiest U.S. president ever help the poorest U.S. citizens?
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • La Resistance
  • La Resistance

    Michael Moore, Congressional Democrats and local progressives: How they are resisting Donald Trump's agenda
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Must-See TV?
  • Must-See TV?

    Alternatives to the inauguration (and how to make watching more fun if you have to)
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Women's March on Spokane

Women's March on Spokane @ Spokane Convention Center

Sat., Jan. 21, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • The Landed and the White

    How Americans followed tradition when they voted for Trump
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Comment


Briefs


marijuana


green zone


Politics


Readers also liked…

  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Condon's Right Hand
  • Condon's Right Hand

    City Administrator Theresa Sanders tells it like it is — except when she tells it like it isn't
    • Dec 17, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation