The Wasteland

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 10:15 AM

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At times like these....

I volunteered (sort-of) for another round of graduate school last year. I say sort-of because economic pressure is a powerful coercive force, whether anyone wants to admit or not; one of my professors in my previous program tried to get me kicked out of graduate school, and when she couldn't do that, she ruined my reputation through any means possible, so I can't get a job locally with my previous degree. As a result, I went back for a degree in a different field.

This semester has been pretty awful, for really stupid reasons. Two of my four professors this semester are either terrible teachers or just not having a good semester. This week, I had to report them both to their respective bosses.

One of the classes I'm taking is a nuclear and chemical engineering seminar. I would have characterized our relationship as good, before the midterm, if a little frustrating because of his habit of asking conceptual questions and expecting one word answers. He failed my midterm, saying that my wording was weird on the questions. When I asked him to show me what I'd done wrong, since I obviously wasn't understanding what I'd been asked, he broke down fairly quickly into a torrent of abuse, including a rather serious accusation of misconduct, while staring at my boobs and touching my arm. I went back and looked up the answers; at least twenty points which I had lost on the exam were actually mild paraphrases of the contents of his slides.

The second class, a graduate statistics course, has been characterized by what the students around me are calling serious hostility from the woman teaching it. None of us talks during class, we just sit there looking at the desks in front of us or the board. I started the semester feeling more charitable. When she came to class with a sore throat, I offered her some of the Halls in my backpack.

She responded by telling me that she shouldn't take them because I might be trying to poison her. Since that point, any attempt to ask questions has been met by her cutting me off and yelling at me.

I don't have a clue why both these professors are behaving this way. What I do know is that it effects the students around me. Our productivity is low, as a group. Many of us are taking as few classes as we can, and contemplating dropping out.

It is a criminal waste of talent. Sadly, the students who have had good experiences previously with the statistics professor attribute the class' difficulty to a misunderstanding of math. We aren't good enough, according to them, to do well in her class. I typically remind them that I'm passing calculus, the first time I'm taking it, at a school where taking calculus courses upward of three times is the norm.

Of course, the students who tell us this are white males, and she flirts with them. She talks in class about getting discounts at stores because of her students.

There are no white males in the stats class right now. I can't help but feel that this is why she treats us with contempt. There's no one in class to flirt with.

The thing which bothers me the most is that waste of talent. I'm sitting in a class full of people who are not white males, most of whom barely passed, and all of whom, in my conversations with them, are incredibly bright and for the most part, well-organized. Even if they weren't well organized, or if they weren't a smart group, I would still think it a waste of talent.

My partner calls it artificial selection. I think of it as the wasteland.

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