The Golden Student-Teacher Ratio
The annual deluge of angst, fear and deceit has receded! Our fates have finally been marked on the black-and-white floor plans in Campus Life and we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing whether or not we got one of those monstrous suites or that "thank-God-I-got-one" single. Now that room draw has ended, students on the Hill can finally move on with their lives (that is, unless you were inducted into the "trail of tears" that is the temporary housing list; sophomores, I wish you the best in your endeavors to attain that mythical room of your dreams).
With housing behind me, I find myself looking ahead to the next trials. The course catalogue for next year is out, and instead of coming to terms with the classes that I'm already taking, I'm caught in the collective rush to figure out how I can have both a free Friday and afternoon classes in the coming fall. Coupled with room draw, this search has turned me into me an emotional mess.
One recurring element in my search for the perfect schedule has been class size. While I've overheard countless promises of small classes from wandering tour groups, one begins to wonder whether our classes are truly "small" enough. While fulfilling the College's distribution requirements, I've flirted with many departments offerings, but have noticed a common theme in all of them: classes are simply too large.
Of course, our classes are small compared to those at large universities, but I think that some fields should require classes to be capped between ten and fifteen students. It is difficult to have a discussion about complex, idea-driven material if there are too many students in the classroom. Ideas need to be discussed, and often a class of twenty-five or more students can turn into a competition just to get a word in, let alone to engage with the material. Students spend most of classtime trying to hold onto their own ideas until they can speak rather than listening to other perspectives.
If a key goal of college is to engage in new ways of thinking, why are we allowing large class sizes to encourage closed-mindedness? Instead of investing money in superficial things like a spiffy new building or in the seasonal onslaught of landscaping, why not encourage professors to teach more sections of classes or hire more professors?
Instead of glossing over our image, we should be working on our character. Why can't we increase the quality of our education before we renovate a dorm in order to make it LEED-certified? We can get more bang for our buck if we spend our money on enriching what goes on inside of the classroom rather than on something as artificial as a plaque on a building. This is not to say that we lack fantastic professors or even a decent course selection; however it can be improved immensely if we put the massive amounts of money we pay in tuition to better use. For a small school, our college has large ambitions. Let it have them. If the College wants to expand and create new buildings and facilities, it has every right to do so. Classrooms, parking lots and offices are all included in the proposed Colby Green. But are we catering to the current population or to the prospective one? Soul-searching should be done within budget so that it manifests itself into a better education. If we want to be internationally recognized, it should be for the quality of our education, not for the shiny bells and whistles that come with new buildings and image-builders.
Regardless of our desire for something better, we continue to choose our classes and hope that our interests can help us wade through the masses to come to some higher state of intellectual being. As for the upcoming semester, so far it looks like I've got another semester of morning French. Au revoir, my friends.