Dear (Sociology) Professors,
As a new Sociology major, it suddenly dawned on me that regardless of my awakened love for this subject, sometimes I still feel like an alien in the classroom. To explain this feeling, I have a question for you: Despite that you teach us the definitions and restrictive effects of stereotyping, why do you still hold stereotypes of your own students? Statements that hint at our wild late-night parties, excessive drinking (of cheap alcohol), disdain for attending class, inclination towards the path of least resistance, unhealthy eating habits, and devotion for instant gratification are offensive to me. What are the demographics of the student population at UT? Can you back these ideas up with hard evidence gained through reliable research? (Will I be eating my words after a search on the JSTOR database?) Surely it cannot be inferred that students at a nationally recognized university lead the stereotypical college student lifestyle – according to admission qualifications, unless we are masters of deception, most of us should be above that.
After spending fifteen years in the public school environment, I’ve learned that the appropriate response to these jabs at the product of our undeveloped values is to laugh it off with a knowing, half-guilty grin. However, this rigid depiction of a college student describes me rather poorly and instead of nodding to allow you to get your point across, it would do me well to not consent and not let these ill-formed perceptions influence your and my opinion of myself. Your speech reveals a lot about your intended audience; even though unmotivated students are the hardest to offend, ironically, they are the ones who need the most encouragement.
I suggest that you, the professors, before even thinking about your students through the current structure dictated by extreme examples, popular culture, and hearsay, allow your students space and time to unfold individually, each with his/her own styles of learning, values, insight and areas of malleability. I think then that you will find that the average student will exceed your expectations and perhaps even reshape your ideas of what it means to be a college student. And instead of authorizing complacency, why not expand and stretch our minds, which we often willingly give you, like your own teachers once did for you? Of course, I am just one person and I can speak confidently only for myself. But as you taught me, there is also the notion of an “expectation theory,” that people tend to live up (or down) to their expectations. So demand our best, assume our interest in learning, and if the task of getting to know us seems too daunting, that’s ok. Just don’t box us into tiny structures, because not all of us fit in them.
Is that too nerdy for school, even? I just got tired of being looked down upon by people from whom I should respect and learn. Can you relate? Don't get me wrong, I think most of my professors are great and very knowledgeable. But too bad I can't send this out to them anonymously.