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Director's cut — March 2007

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March 1, 2007 by Tara Brabazon

Like many of the Popular Culture Collective, I have been marking assignments this month. As always, my response ranges from rapture to rage. The best student work is always a reward for their effort as much as ours. The worst students summon a dense anger in me that educational opportunities have been wasted.

Concurrently — and at the same time — I have been enacting some research on Facebook, the student networking site that had its origins in the United States. The whining and complaining against teachers is perhaps predictable. It is always easier to blame others rather than ourselves. Teachers are a useful fall guy for laziness and mediocrity. However it is the mantra of these sites — 'we're paying for this' — that I find most disturbing. In other words, poor teachers are bad enough, but we are actually paying for these poor teachers.

But I have been interested in thinking about what the 'this' in 'we're paying for this' actually means. Does 'this' refer to being entertained by a teacher? Does it refer to easy passes in courses? Does it refer to simple answers to difficult questions? After cruising Facebook, I think all these answers are correct.

Complaining about teachers is not new. Spending time writing about your complain in public and building into a communal frenzy about some overworked and underpaid education does little except create a culture of grievance and complaint. This culture of complaint is corrosive of learning and thinking. I know if twenty students in my module had spent less time on Facebook and more time reading and drafting their papers, then they would have much more success at university.

That is the difficulty with user-generated content. It creates a self-satisfied community of mediocre writers and thinkers who feel important because they share a modality and experience with other mediocre writers and thinkers.

Education requires courage. It does not require complacency. Until students ascertain that they may pay for an enrolment, but can never pay to learn and become a scholar, they will continue to cap their potential, trading intelligence for mere competence.

See you in April.