Which fashion school is best pt.2

Last week, Cathryn posted a comment to Melissa’s entry called Which fashion school is best? I thought it was worth publishing as part two, a counterpoint from the perspective of an educator.
I can agree with much Melissa has written– even though I teach at one of the institutions (a not for profit –but not famous either- University). Much that she writes is true; machines break, administrators and instructors or professors lie, some people should not be in classrooms and some are just lazy. The opposite corollary is also true- but I will not go into it- you probably get it. I have another point. And my point is not a refutation or disrespectful argument with Melissa. Here is my view:

A student is not a consumer.

I googled a definition of consumer: “An individual who buys products or services for personal use and not for manufacture or resale”. Here is consume: “to eat or drink, to use up or destroy.”

That is not what is going on at school.

It is a bummer to try to teach or even engage with consumer-students. They sit there passively, waiting for entertainment, empty vessels, arms folded, looking for justification for the huge sum of money they just spent. They are cynical, not so earnest, mostly ready to be gone with one foot out the door to matriculate and get what they paid for: a certificate. They pretend, they fake and they try to game the system. They also email me 24/7 over trivials or to get advice without effort. They complain if I am not sitting in my office. They miss appointments, assume that while they are too busy to do their homework or to even buy the text (it is too expensive) or to attend class because they have a doctors appointment, they should still get an A because they turned in all of the assignments and came to class. Here is where Woody Allen and I disagree- showing up is not 80%.

If I “give” them a bad grade, it will mess up their GPA and they say they aren’t going to use “my” information anyway. Therefore, I am deserving of their disrespect and glib disregard. This is not a blanket condemnation of all my students. Even some of the consumer-students are kind of awesome in their own way but it is still a drag.

This has all been said before -sorry- but I am hearing more and more from prospective employers. They are seeing an increase in students applying for positions who feel entitled and they don’t like it. I see entitlement as part and parcel of the same concept of students as consumers.

An education is not like a car or a house. An education evolves the student into one who has the capacity to synthesize the particulars they will confront in their future careers. This sounds like BS but I have thought hard about this. You cannot buy an education.

An education is an evolution. It requires the invested engagement of all participants; first and foremost on the part of the student. It requires the willingness on the part of the student to change and be moved. An education is not a passive transaction.

These days, you can pretty much teach yourself anything given the time, discipline and determination. You don’t really need to go to school. This view can be challenged easily but not disproved. So, why go at all? Here’s some reasons why:

  1. To evolve, to be pushed through the tube within a given time line and in the company of others in a weird but structured environment -that usually bears little resemblance to the real world (whatever that is)- and for good reason. The real world cannot tolerate the high percentage of errors, rabbit holes, diversions and experimentation that are required elements of your evolution. The structure is to provide you with an environment that allows you to step in and step out of the process so you can still have a life and so you don’t fall off the edge completely. It is not designed to crank out identical occupational copies of you. Schools may be designed like a factory but we fail miserably at this model. We can’t turn out copies that meet our specs -if we have them- since no one can write them and the terms are changing all of the time. Not to mention the amazingly random sourcing of materials (students) for output. [Very big topic- too long for here.]
  2. To buy the time to focus on the subject or many subjects, in ways that you will never be able to do again- unless you are really lucky or you retire.
  3. To be in the physical proximity of the instructor, to see them moving and acting; in the case of the web class, lean more heavily on #1. Respect is a key value here. Hey Student! Why be so cynical? Why waste time doubting? Just be earnest, it won’t kill you. Maybe instructor is not awesome, maybe you sometimes figure out they made an error, or screwed up. You may know more than they do about something (but did everyone else?); this shouldn’t mean they are to be immediately relegated to the trash heap. Think again. What are you bringing to your table? Are you an empty vessel? What are you doing to get through the tube? Are you merely following instructions? That’s not what we all need.
  4. To peek into the arrangement of resources and perspectives accumulated and presented by the instructors. Melissa mentioned syllabi that are “vague”. A syllabus is an outline or a summary of the main points of a text, lecture, or course of study. Very detailed syllabi do not guarantee that you will absorb the material. Vague ones likewise. What is a vague instructor? That’s rhetorical, I know what that is but -and not to be confrontational (genuinely)- I also wonder at the passivity of sitting and the student failing to reach for the piece they think is missing. We cannot guess what that piece is; there are so many students coming from so many perspectives.

In class I hear, “wait! I am so confused” all of the time. Maybe my instructions are to blame. I self check rigorously but I suspect that confusion is a necessary part of the process. Confusion feels uncomfortable to people who have rigid expectations of certainty, immediate clarity and uniquely defined boundaries of order while learning.

Learning is making mistakes. I scarcely pay attention to something that comes together on its own, especially if I am struggling with something new. My mind is totally focused when something goes awry. Learning is why and how, and learning to correct and avoid errors.

Practice -life after school- comes later if ever. Schools can’t make you awesome at anything really; that’s your job. They can show you a way, it is your job to take it. Besides, it takes years to get good at things and there is no time in school. Contrary to what we all are thinking now, schools are not the solution to a job loss (ummm..that is a scary thing to write).

This is the point I am trying to make: you can acquire a good education in any number of ways and in many, many places. A few of my best students aren’t and weren’t such good students but they were engaged, creative and resourceful. They often brought something to the table for us to work with so we found the means to move ahead all of the time. The process was reciprocal as it should be. They were never empty vessels waiting to be filled (yuck). It is cool to work with them and it is also fun. Fun relaxes the mind; it makes learning more possible and evolving, more probable.

Not everyone can fit in at FIT or Parsons and not all poor institutions are a bad idea. Not everyone has a great experience at Parsons or FIT and not every class they offer is “da bomb”. So what? Are you ready for “da bomb” anyway? That is the main point. So much of this is completely lost on the young ones; it’s awesome really, how long it takes to become a whole person.

So, I apologize if this seems a bit wacky, too long and confrontational. I do not mean to be so. I agree fully that schools should be carefully vetted and if you want to go to the lengths suggested -awesome. Seriously, for my sake as well. Although, I wonder how I would fit demos of all my machines for all prospective students into my schedule and even though I know why this was suggested.

But then you have to resolve to be a student and stop with the “I am a customer and you provide a service” mentality (within reason of course – I also have kids in college). You have to be responsible for your education. You have to “bring it” and keep doing so wherever you land.

On becoming a pattern maker
Why fashion colleges don’t teach entrepreneurship

Get New Posts by Email


  1. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Very well written and many good points. As an older adult returning to academia I am often appalled at younger students attitude and behavior in the classroom. I saw this as well thirty years ago in my first foray into college but it is worse today. “You have to be responsible for your education.” Yes, yes, yes and more yes! I’m back in the classroom now not because I need to be but because I have access to machines I would not have access to otherwise. I am grateful for that. Thank you for the perspective from the other side.

  2. anne says:

    I teach at a smaller University and the reality is that the student(and you should also couple them with the parents) views education as a consumable and that they are the customer. This has to a small degree been encouraged by the marketing of schools. DoI like it ? No. But at the risk of spending my life tilting at windmills I feel that it is my job as an educator to problem solve the issue move forward and not just rail against the current system.
    This is a partial list of the problems I need to solve:
    Help students to see the value of being actively engaged in and take responsibility for their education.
    Compete with and break through the distractions of their lives; ipods, texting, facebook, family issues etcetera.
    Address a variety of learning styles in the classroom. Gone are the days of simple memorization and regurgitation.
    Encourage students to build a collection of resources which will help them in their research and problem solving process.
    Teach a respect for peers, the studio space and equipment.
    I could go on and on but these are among the top ten. Anyone who says “those who can’t do, teach” has clearly not been in a classroom situation. I am fortunately to have the support of a great group of colleagues when I get stuck on one of the points above. And I am never fully satisfied with my answers to the problems. As much as the education is an evolution according to the author so is finding answers to the problems educators face.
    I look forward to reading many more perspectives on the issue.

    Learning to be a learner is a process. After 12 years of asking to go to the bathroom and being told every minute of the day what to do and how to do it you can’t expect the average student to come to college equipped with those skills and a high level of self direction. Many students come to me requiring copious notes on how to tie their shoes, but fortunately the vast majority leave designing the shoe ! I find that I learn a great deal from mine students as well.; most of it not related to the fashion industry.

  3. Barb Taylorr says:

    It would seem then, that there is a huge difference in the type of student one might encounter then from one school to the next. If I spent class time explaining to a kid that they needed to turn their cell phone off, the rest of the students would be appalled that I was wasting their valuable time. As a student and a teacher I believe kids come to class to be challenged & learn things they do not already know. If they have not already learned to respect others and pay attention I would not tolerate them in my classroom. That is just not fair to the kids paying their own tuition who truly want to learn something.

  4. Barb Taylorr says:

    Sorry, I meant to add a less critical comment before sending and hit the wrong key:

    That said, I am glad to know there are caring and patient teachers out there who do bring these kids along that are less ready for the adult world than the ones I have encountered in class. Hard love does not work for everyone, so I am sure that different methods must be applied in different situations. However, I will never accept that the whole generation needs to be taught down to in this way. For the ones I have met, the more you expect from them the better they will do.

  5. AJ says:

    Very good points. In my first year illustration class I saw all the time students who could already draw who refused to change what they were doing to match what the instructor was teaching. They did not progress. At the end of the course their drawings still looked exactly the same while i went from stick figures to make readable fashion sketches from which a pattern could be made. They may have been able to colour theirs better but aside from looking pretty their illustrations were useless because you could not see what the garment really was…where are the seams? Where’s the zipper? Is this straight grain or bias? They thought they knew everything so they totally disregarded everything the instructor said and, even though they are probably not aware of it, their end skills suffered greatly for it.

  6. ElizabethD says:

    As a parent who has transferred her child to several different schools, I think long and hard about students and education, and I am in great sympathy with your comments. And as a payer of NYC private schools’ famously expensive tuitions, I can add this: I only ever thought of myself as a consumer when one school was doing a stunningly bad job.

    It seems to me that many schools do a poor job preparing children for higher education — in my experience, there is an awful lot of emphasis on feeling “comfortable” and on self-esteem, a self-esteem that is totally divorced from effort. My child is fortunate now to attend a school that emphasizes rigor and encourages students to struggle to reach what is now just beyond their grasp; in other words, they are learning to work their way through frustration and confusion. I wish this style of learning were more in vogue, and more to the point, I wish we valued education enough to support it.

  7. Donna S says:

    A subject dear to my heart. I spent 20+ years in education both as a teacher and administrator. One of my worst experiences was my last semester teaching in the fashion design program that I had just graduated from with A’s in all my classes. How did I do it? I showed up on time, did all the assignments and didn’t copy from my neighbor. Oh, and I already was retired from the system and had a masters degree in school administration. But I digress. One of my instructors had cancer and asked me to teach two of her classes. One student had been kicked out of all the schools in the area and challenged me on every assignment. Dept. head finally got him kicked out of our school also. Another prima donna brought her kids and came late every day. She spent her time in the dept. heads office complaining about me. Others sat there in sullen stupor waiting to argue with me. Trying to engage them in dialog was hopeless. The pattern was to arrive when they felt like it and leave when they felt like it and then complain if they missed something. The worse offenders were the older students. I had a few sweet souls who couldn’t sew or do much but they hung on my every word. I knew their futures were bleak but what a relief to help them do what they could. I spent a lot of time teaching them how to use the machines which my instructor did not do. The younger ones were eager to master the machines but the older ones could care less. My sense of loyalty to my former teacher was the only thing that kept me there because I would have gladly walked out the door. Still to this day I count it as one of the worse experiences of my teaching career, and I had taught gang bangers at the high school level so I was used to tough situations. I would like to think I could have reached these hard core cases but my experience has taught me that not all are teachable. I wondered why they were even taking the classes.

  8. anne says:

    I do not teach “down” to my students ; our program has a good reputation because we have very high expectations. I am considred a “hard grader” but a nice person. I can assure you that having come from industry and still a part in a more minor role I have a very good understanding of what students need to be successful today.
    One would be hard pressed to find a professor these days that doesn’t have a cell phone policy in their syllabus. The only time it is mentioned in class is when we review the syllabus the first day. Most of my students work outside of school, but the whole cell phone thing (needing to attached) is endemic to even the best student and yes there are even professors who complain about cell phones who bring them to class :D
    My point is that as Bob says “the times they are a changin” while we must maintain our standards, we must not be so rigid that we cannot grow and adapt ourselves.

  9. Crystal says:

    Mostly, I agree with the commentary in this post, and I appreciate the effort and thought that went into it. I actually think it’s not just formal-education students who have a sense of entitlement; I suspect it’s more that the range of things people feel entitled to is growing. I’m not entirely sure what’s fueling that growth, though, and possibly I should study that when I go back to grad school for anthropology. ;)

    Another thing that came to mind as I read this commentary, though, was that my experience in college was that some school administrators have too *little* a sense that students — as a general body — are consumers. The teachers that I studied with weren’t at all like that, but the administrators who ran some programs I participated in frustrated me with their lack of engagement, exactly as students are now frustrating teachers with theirs. I loved college, and as a student, I was extremely interested in learning, conversing, self-exploration, exploration of others’ (thoughtful and engaged) points of view, and problem-solving. I *wanted* to go to class, I wanted to read my books and write my papers, and I got pretty darn good grades. But I was put off by the attitude that the school administrators (that I was exposed to) knew me better than I did, based on my answers to three or four questions about what I did in high school. And they didn’t *suggest* a path, or give the impression that they were working *with* me to my benefit; there was an emphatic attitude that They Were Right and I Had Better Appreciate Their Insight. Based on that, they seemed to feel entitled, as it were, to my tuition (which came from a state scholarship, and hence from the taxpayers) paying their salaries.

    Maybe we need to hook up the students with entitlement issues and the administrators with entitlement issues. Between them, maybe they’ll cancel each other out, and the teachers in between can get on with their jobs? ;) I wonder whether the situation may have changed somewhat since I graduated, too. I can see people swinging either way — either letting their senses of entitlement make them even more adversarial toward the student body, or having their senses of entitlement weakened by the increasing feeling that they need to pander to a demanding and unreasonable set of customers.

    (Hmmm. Thoughtfood.)

  10. Kate Rawlinson says:

    #2 and #3 were pretty much the reason I went back to college – when it comes to 3D skills, I learn better when watching someone actually do it that reading about it. And although the course I attended was terrible for so many reasons, #2 was what kept me there – I did the work myself, and I worked really, incredibly hard. Also, in some industries (including costume-making, which is what I was looking at doing), all the job ads demand a degree in a related subject, so…

    A friend of a friend, who teaches university students, says that the big difference (in the UK at least) with students now is that they are completely incapable of independent thought. This is because of changes to the school system here over the past 20 years or so, but they expect to be told by her what to write in their essays. I don’t think we have that concept of student as consumer here (or rather, I don’t think the students do – I think the universities see the students as £ signs though), they just don’t know how to be independent thinkers. Which is kind of what higher education is about.

    FWIW, I was a great student, took full responsibility for my ‘learning outcome’, worked really hard, feel no ‘entitlement’ to a job, and am happy to earn a third of what I used to earn and sweep the floors if it means I can work somewhere that I’ll learn something, but I still can’t find a job.

  11. Barb Taylorr says:

    Right on ElizabethD! I completely agree. The best teachers were the ones who made me think, and made me mad because it was so hard. Through that, they gave me tools to succeed, & thankfully they also supported my efforts, which kept me going. So thank you to all the demanding & caring teachers out there. Those are the ones I learned the most from, and still stay in touch with 25 years later!

  12. Donna S says:

    Education is a highly complex issue. Which most people don’t realize. It is easy to blame the system or the students without looking at the complexities of education. In the 50’s less than half the population graduated from high school and even fewer went on to higher degrees. Hence the students in the system were different from today. Then came the movement of everyone is entitled to a “free, appropriate education”. The concept is good but it placed a burden on the system to meet the needs of more and more students. Another burden came with the influx of non english speaking students. By the 80’s more than 75% of the population were graduating from high school. Educational theory has evolved and grown with these demands but the educational system is an inefficient beauracracy, slow to adapt to the changes placed on it. I had the fortune or misfortune to do an internship in a catholic school while getting my teaching credentials. All my life I had heard of the superiority of these schools only to find out that students were carefully screened for their ability to make the grade and fit in. I don’t know if this is true in all the catholic schools but it certainly was in my situation.

  13. Eric H says:

    Donna, I’m not sure where you get those statistics. The chart at this site indicates that more than 80% graduated in 1950, and that was the peak. We may be talking apples and oranges, though.

    I used to hear from our technicians, “we want training.” So on occasion I would put together a short, focused talk on some aspect of the job. They would come in and sit in the back; half would take notes, the other half would nap. No questions. Two days later, people start calling and asking questions that were clearly answered during the training. What good were the notes? Did they still have the handout? You could hear the shoulders shrugging. I finally determined that what everyone wants is a training pill. They want to absorb information the same way plants absorb light: without effort, completely passive.

    It all reminded me of something one of my professors had on his door. It was an alternate version of the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the meek,” etc.):

    Then Simon Peter said, “are we supposed to write this down?”
    And James said, “will this be on the test?”
    And Andrew said, “does spelling count?”
    And Phillip said, “will you give partial credit if we don’t remember it exactly?”
    And Bartholomew said, “will there be a makeup?”
    And John said, “nobody else has had to learn anything like this!”
    And Thomas said, “will you accept it if it is late?”
    And Judas said, “what does this have to do with real life?”
    The other disciples spoke likewise, asking foolish questions about how many pages were required, and what would happen if they didn’t do the assignment.
    Then one of the Pharisees who was also present, asked to see Jesus’ lesson plan, and inquired of Jesus concerning his instructional method and his terminal objectives in the cognitive domain.

    With respect to education, there are two types of student: the one who knows he/she is lucky to have the opportunity and privilege of being a student, and the one who doesn’t understand learning for its own sake. I have been both; I much prefer to be the former.

    I have had a few clunkers as teachers, but they are truly few and far between. Usually, they were people who were in over their heads and didn’t realize it, or who had gotten stuck in a groove.

  14. Eric H says:

    Indeed we are talking apples and oranges. The chart I posted was their birth year. The peak wouldn’t hit for their graduation rates for 18 more years, so Donna was exactly right!

  15. Donna S says:

    Eric, Glad you re-read your charts.
    Some more interesting facets of education are that many gifted (highly intelligent) students drop out of high school due to sheer boredom; and alternative or continuation high schools tend to have students in the lower intellectual range and the higher ranges with virtually no students of average intelligence. The less intelligent students just can’t make it at a comprehensive high school and the more intelligent ones end up at a continuation hs because of their propensity to drop out. The comprehensive high school caters to the average because they are good little seat sitters and teacher pleasers. Some of the most remarkable students are the highly intelligent who end up in special education classes because their learning styles are different than the norm. Of course this is a lot of generalizing but fascinating never-the-less.

  16. Donna S says:

    The one that really nailed it for me was the student who never did the assignments, then wanted to make it all up with “extra” credit assignments. Heaven forbid they just do what was assigned. I even had administrators insist I make up new assignments and call them “extra” credit. Usually a parent was in the background making noises.

  17. Barb Taylorr says:

    I just have to add one more comment, because this has all brought to mind one of my fondest memories from college, that seems to somehow illustarte the complexity of education & much of what has been described here, especially the later posts.
    A fellow design student once turned in the most amazing and breathtaking collage/painting/sculpture any of us had ever seen. It was abour 3′ x 6′, multi media, mostly recycled bits of wood (back in the early 80’s no less). Students and teachers all marveled at his genius and considerable talant. The class spent a good half hour discussing and critiquing his work of art. He also got an “F” on the project and because it had nothing to do with the assigned project. I loved both that student and that teacher! Both always thought in creative ways, respeceted others, and loved learning. Both also had a clear understanding that grades only defined one set of learning criteria. The student had no argument about his “F” once he was told the reason for it. He said he learned a lot from it!

  18. Dorothy Klein says:

    A few comments from having been both a student (in art as well as Occupational Therapy, though not fashion) and a teacher (again in OT at bachelors and associate degree levels) as well as a life-long learner (necessary for surviving any world). These comments are in response to all contributors, but as they are both in random order and in capsulization, I won’t cite individuals to whom I am responding.

    a) The most damaging thing to individuals and society is unearned self-esteem. Not only is it worthless, it prevents development of intrinsic and mastery motivation anc can enhance the development of sociopathic tendencies. What is more valuable is self-efficacy: achieving a result from “doing the work”. It enhances motivation, feeds optimism, and leads to a more deserved and earned feeling of self-esteem.

    b) We, as educators, parents and peers, need to keep in mind the hierarchy of learning as well as differences of learning styles. The lowest level of learning is being exposed to topic through one of our senses. The hierarchy of learning increases as we involve more senses and move closer to learning by doing. Learning is indeed enhanced by developing problem-solving skills through exposure to frustration or even failure. The highest level of learning is being able to teach others a skill we have newly developed (I will not use the word mastered because mastery is an ongoing evolution).

    c) There is a reason we refer to doctors as “practicing medicine” or being in a “practice”.

    d) Sometimes educational institutions become their own worst enemy by requiring of potential admits what we then discourage them from having as selected students. Emphasis on grades is a prime example. Schools that are selective in their admit process and choose students based on the professionalism of their portfolios and grade-point-average will have classes filled with students more likely to think they are already “all that” and who are more concerned with grades than enhanced skills and abilities as their end-product. And teachers in such institutions will be almost powerless to convince their students otherwise.

    e) A sports analogy re selection process: As a baseball coach, I would be more likely to invest in a player with imperfect form than one with perfect form in reference to the task I am asking him to perform. Why? Because by helping the player improve his form, you can get more improvement in task performance than you can in the candidate with perfect form.

    f) Do not underestimate how much fear of litigation can limit you as a teacher. When testing my college students, I rearranged seating to decrease intimacy, had coats, purses, bookbags, etc. locked in another room, asked them to leave cellphones with purses and bags, yet still directly observed several students cheating and after reviewing exams, suspected a few more. Guess what I did? I was allowed to do nothing. The dean said that before I punished cheating in ANY way, the school would have to engage an attorney to defend against potential litigation, and the defense of the students attorney would be to demonstrate that neither I nor the school did enough to prevent cheating from occurring. What was I supposed to have done? Strip-search the students for cel phones hidden in body cavities? If this isn’t reflective of a consumeristic attitude towards education, I don’t know what is. And these students wouldn’t be making your clothes; they would be treating you in the event of a stroke, spinal-cord injury, or other health catastrophe!

    g) Teaching should be infused with attention to ethics and honor from day one. Will all students buy it? You’re lucky if it sticks with 10%. But those students who do internalize honorable, ethical standards will reward you more than you can imagine. You will be able to take justifiable pride in them throughout not only their careers, but their lives.

    This is one post in which I will not apologize for it’s length nor for the fact that I am not a fashion professional. I’ve loved reading each and every response as well as Kathleen’s original post. I’m grateful to have been in the company of folks with the guts to speak up and tell it like it is.

  19. Dorothy Klein says:

    Just a short addendum to my long post: this should probably been observation#1. I think it’s helpful for us to think of “understanding how learning occurs” rather than “knowing how to teach”! They’re not necessarily synonymous.

  20. Barb/Dorothy et al, your comments remind me of an experience I had, one I’m not proud of.

    With straight A’s and 1 B, my college transcripts look impressive. Of them all, the B is the only one I truly earned. People give me too much credit, not understanding I only did the minimum to get the A (I’d drop a class if I thought I was getting a B and retake it later). Those were mostly by the skin of my teeth A’s because by the time I got to college, I’d figured out the system well enough to game it. This is a radical departure for someone who never cared about grades in high school; I would have flunked out if I hadn’t have dropped out first.

    The class I got the B in was -get this- rhetoric and expository writing, hilarious in retrospect considering I make a living at it. As in my other classes, I did the minimum to get what I thought was the A. I didn’t read the fine print in the syllabus, an A required a 94 average, not 90. The professor knew I was not putting forth my best effort and even tho my work was the best in the class (it was, really), my final grade was a 93.9. She couldn’t have made her point any clearer than that. I was furious at the time of course. The other students were shocked; they got A’s because they worked for them when I did not, as she laid it out to me. Talent and natural ability only gets you so far.

    I wrote her a few years ago to touch base, the only professor I’ve ever written. She’s the one who planted the seed, that one day I would write, something I’d already given up on. That was part of the reason I didn’t try. I didn’t want to care about writing again. My hopes had been dashed before I came to her (from the time I was six years old, I never thought I’d be anything other than a writer) so I decided to become an economist instead. Not privy to my baggage, she assumed I would write, that I’d be an author. She said she wanted to read “it” when I did. It wasn’t if I’d write, only when. That’s a heady thing to tell a student. I didn’t act on it for years, the idea didn’t even ferment because I was (and continue to be) truly at peace with having given up an old dream. But later on, her encouragement was useful, when I found I needed to write.

    So I guess like Cathryn said, it’s not necessarily your best students who go off to make something of themselves. I learned my lesson and have put forth more diligent effort since. Anything less is disrespecting my readers.

    Dorothy: If I could be said to be proud of anything academically, it’s that I’ve never cheated on a test in my life. For better or worse I have what I have honestly even if my efforts were not.

  21. Dorothy Klein says:

    Kathleen, Knowing you from this blog only, you are one person (besides myself) I would have expected would never have cheated. Like you, I didn’t always give my best effort, sometimes got grades that I deserved and sometimes better than my effort reflected. But I always felt that by cheating, the person who would have the most to lose is me.
    One other aspect of my education that I didn’t appreciate until much later: Group projects are great training for deling with the weird mix of crazys you encounter both personally and professionally in the “real world”. Through group work I eventually came to realize that no matter how well I thought of my individual skills and effort, it doesn’t mean “Jack $hit” if you can’t negotiate through the multitudes of personalities encountered while trying to bring a project to fruition. Luckily, the professor I cursed the most had us split into small groups for all assignments. You would know she was a psych professor. I’ve never encountered anything that prepared me for life more than her assignments.

  22. Arnikka says:

    Okay, let’s forget the lofty ideals of the academic world –here is the reality: modern students ARE consumers. Gone are the days when any type of education beyond a high school diploma could be viewed as a nice extra but not necessary to having a “nice” life. Gone are the days when a person could substitute an apprenticeship for an alma mater. Facts are…you’re not even going to get in the door most places without a string of letters on a piece of sheepskin.

    The tuition at most private four year colleges is around $30,000 A YEAR(and we’re not talking ivy league, just run of the mill private). The tuition for most career/vocational colleges(I would include FIT and Parsons in this category because they are very focused in their offerings) can be up to $45,000 for a course period of 18-24 months unless they adhere to the four year time table in which case it can be upwards of $30k per year. Most of the smaller career/vocational colleges do not have much of an endowment so excluding the tiny amount available through federal grants & loans, most students are left with an incredible bill which they will then have to pay via private loans administered by somewhat questionable companies that cater to education. Have any of you seen the interest rate on those private loans??? Pretty hefty and they are much less willing to work with students on payment plans, etc. than federal.

    Many students leave higher education owing upwards of $50,000 or more. Traditionally this has been offset by the notion that the better paying the career is, the more the student has to shell out to get into the career. As such aside from their home purchase, a person’s education is probably the most expensive thing that they will pay for in their lives but in contemporary times, this has been okay because there was the idea of the big pay-off in career trajectory/future earning power/career stability/etc. The author of the post gave the definition of a consumer explaining that a student could not be a consumer. I understand that to a point, after all in a perfect world an education ends up providing a skill set that can be resold in a figurative sense. However, lets be honest, in the economy that we live in a formal degree or certificate that is not at the graduate level in any type of industry is fast becoming one for “personal use”. This is most certainly true in America’s disappearing manufacturing industry. I just thought about this last night as a local fashion college advertised on late night TV. They were a school who a few years back would never have dreamed of doing so but I have a sneaking suspicion that enrollment numbers are really down. You spend $50k+ on a certificate or degree in an industry where your pay-off is virtually nil, you tend to expect the priviledge of being a bad student because inwardly you’re still shocked that you signed yourself up for this type of financial self- flagellation. Yes there are always exceptions to the norm…but really beyond striking out on your own path what do most design students have a hope of? The schools sell the dream of being the next Tom Ford…but come on…most english writing majors dream of being the next Toni Morrison…but they’ll settle for a nice teaching position somewhere when the day is done or working in a law firm. Where is the comparable career consolation prize for your average fashion design student?

  23. Dorothy Klein says:

    Probably the same consolation prize as all the kids I know who have graduated with alphabet soup galore behind their names (unless it’s in Elementary and Secondary Education or Nursing School, in which there will always be a demand because working conditions and/or pay are so poor). BestBuy, Temporary Services, substitute teaching, etc. The really lucky ones get jobs with car rental companies, because they at least have a career ladder, and after a few years you can usually get full-time hours. And these are kids who unlike me in the ’70s, needed a competitive portfolio and work experience in their field of major study just to be considered as an incoming freshman. Maybe it’s different at USC, where my son was accepted but tuition around 2000/2001 was the equivalent of a new, loaded top-of-the=line Nexus each semester (before other fees such as labs, etc.). But if you can avail yourself of that much cash, you can afford to start a nice business instead.
    Glad I went to school in the hippie daze (or days)!

  24. I am a returning student as well. I have an associates of science in Industrial Design, a degree which I took very seriousely and was sure to receive honors come grade time. I have recently finished my first semester at a technical school fashion program in downtown LA.
    Having read Melissa’s bit about education as well as Cathryn’s post here, these are the points that stand out to me:

    – As Melissa said-
    -It is highly important to your choosing of an institution VERY seriously with doing research on the school’s reputation and its faculty’s experience. Even signing up for school is a lengthy and time consuming process. Then think of all the time you will be investing traveling to and from school, engaging in class and outside study. It is a big investment.
    -Education is like your life, you get what you put into it!” -so true! last semester I often looked around and though I was an over achever because I had purchased the text books and was giving myself assignments to read chapters that we would be working from in the next class. I was astonished how many people treated this like home economics class.

    -As Cathryn Said-
    -“Education is an Evolution…It requires the willingness on the part of the student to change and be moved. An education is not a passive transaction” I agree. There were times where I was uncomfortable in class and I pushed myself to understand and do. so many still choose to sit in the back never asking questions and being so unattached.
    -“To buy the time to focus on the subject or many subjects” This true for me, although I have spent untold hours tinkering around in my studio until I get something right, I have trouble see in some things all the way through, a structure is a big help, then you get the certificate in the end. Icing.
    – “To be in the physical proximity of the instructor”-this helps a ton. Depending on the instructor of course! When I am stuck it is nice to have them there for the solution.

    All in all I am happy with my choice and look forward to next semester. I will still have my guard up and will be sure to get all that I can from the class content and the instructor while maintaining a positive and professional attitude.

    Thanks Melissa and Cathryn, I have enjoyed your posting

  25. V says:

    I understand why there is disagreement that students are not consumers. But I disagree. I believe students are consumers of a different type. We’re not paying for the grade; we’re paying for the service of the opportunity to learn. Going to school requires a payment, a transaction. And, it can leave you with thousands of dollars in debt. I’m sure an economist or accountant would agree. At least that’s what I’ve learned in Macroeconomics and Accounting. Maybe it doesn’t fit the exact definition of “consumer,” but I bet everyone has looked up a definition that was not concise, detailed or exact.

    I don’t think being a customer as a student should be confused with entitlement. Honestly, I believe it’s a crisis no one is addressing. Entitlement is the problem, because they “expect” the teacher to bend the rules for them because of payment. In retail, a lot of customers feel entitled to special treatment just because they’re customers. Customers are just customers, all associations aside. And, like it or not, that piece of paper stating that we’ve earned a degree is worth a lot. I believe I am paying for this opportunity. That piece of paper (and the education we acquire with hard work) is a strong indicator of financial success. It is absolutely an investment.

    There are many things I fell victim to, as the writer of the first post did. I went to a private university that somehow has a liaison agreement with FIT. Against my better judgement but wanting a “faster” track to being eventually accepted at FIT, I attended the school, and it turned out to be the worst decision of my life. Even though I visited and talked to a student in the program, I ignored the warning signs if weren’t for the “credibility” factor it has with the association to FIT. Now I’m nearly $30,000 in debt, and I’m sad to say given what was available in fashion classes, left with basically no knowledge. I even got a prerequisite waivered to take one more fashion class, and still decided it better not to finish school there.

    Even though I’m so in debt and view students as customers, as a student myself, I would never imagine asking a teacher for special treatment, extra credit, etc. Yet I’ve had classmates who thought this and more. They ask for extensions all the time. They want the instructor to repeat items from the last lecture. And, it was much worst when I went to the university, compared to when I went to community college. Not just because the cost was higher; I believe many people that go straight to university do so because “the education is better that community college.” But the way they meant was as a sort of snobbery against community college. At the university, only one teacher had industry experience, short-lived, as as a technical designer. That was it. Well, at the community college I am in now, EVERY teacher has a great industry background working for Levis, Eddie Bauer, Tommy Bahama, Generra, etc.

    I agree wholeheartedly that No one can force you to learn anything. If I know I didn’t put in the effort to learning, it’s my fault, not the teachers. Now, if the teacher says we need to know something, but is unwilling to explain the basic details or answer questions (unfortunately I’ve had that), that’s reason to switch professors, or see what you can do. And, talking to other students before asking a teacher is a really good way to sort out any gray details.

    But the best teachers I’ve had, who were enthusiastic about the subject they were teaching, and readily available for questions, and, they openly viewed us students as customers. By that, they knew we were putting in hard work into learning and hard-earned money into school. They made sure we knew their office hours and encouraged us to come by with questions. They made it known that they could not understand instructors who were hard to reach, or unwilling to talk to students outside of class, because students are the reason the school exists: to teach them (the service).

    Going back to Entitlement, he Jerks in the classroom were always the ones unwilling to accept they dug themselves into a deep, deep hole. Jerks aside, I don’t understand the “Guest Author’s” opinion of students saying “wait! i’m confused!.” Unless the student missed the last class and expects a lecture to be repeated or something else inappropriate.

    While it’s true that confusion is expected with any learning experience, is the author saying it’s the student’s fault? I detect a hint of annoyance, but if students aren’t asking questions when they aren’t understanding, it’s their fault for not gaining clarity. Asking questions means the student is genuinely trying to understand, and is active in “getting an education.” Or, making use of their ‘investment.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *