This lack of response is odd to my wife because she is used to me being, when I'm teaching, completely consumed by it. In my past teaching lives, I would spend entire weekends in my "office" (chaise strewn with laptop and papers), muttering, cursing, clickity-clacking out pointed yet encouraging comments, and periodically sharing a ridiculous turn of phrase or malapropism. (Dr. Mom's standard response to my announcing these gaffes was to shout, "GOLDDIGGER!!!!!!!," a verbatim quote of a one-word sentence in an essay I received from a student in 12th grade AP English about the "Wife of Bath's Tale" from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.)
The reason I haven't been consumed with my current class is that it's just so easy--for my students as well as for me--that I sometimes forget about it. I preside over a classroom of four students. There used to be five, but one dropped the class, supposedly because of a financial aid issue. Curiously, she was the one student who consistently complained about the workload.
This "workload" (based on the template given to me by the dean of the college) consists mostly of me reading short stories and poems aloud, giving a little lecture about certain literary elements, and then conducting a class discussion. I require students to contribute to a class blog twice a week, and there is a weekly assignment wherein the students write something in the style of whatever we have been reading in class (i.e., short story, epic poem, dramatic monologue.) And after six weeks of this, they receive General Ed credit toward their bachelor's degrees.
My students don't take much work home with them, and neither do I. They're not "bad" students, and I hope I'm not a bad teacher: it's just that the culture of these particular hallowed halls does not include notions of "studying," or "doing homework."
Let me explain. I'm teaching this class at a tiny, for-profit college that specializes in computer graphics, animation, and web design. I think of it as a digital trade school, but it's actually accredited, and offers associate's, bachelor's, and even master's degrees. Most of the students work full time and take between two and five classes per six-week "module," which is ostensibly intensive enough to be equivalent to a traditional college semester. Each class meets for about five hours a week, so you can see that it would be difficult for anyone to find time to squeeze homework into their schedule if they were working and taking a full load.
Despite the snobbery you surely detect in the above description, I'm actually ambivalent about these kinds of institutions. On one hand, it irks me that someone can get college credit for an English class that includes no reading and a total of about ten pages of unrevised reflective and creative writing, when I had to typically read a thousand pages or so of difficult text and write 25 pages of polished analysis to earn that credit.
On the other hand, I'm all for technical and vocational schools. If I had been an academic counselor in the high school where I used to teach, I would have pushed about half of my students toward vocational school, instead of insisting that a four-year college was the only route worth pursuing, which is what the counselors actually do. In fact, if I were on the school board, I would campaign to change many of the schools in the district to vocational/technical high schools.
As a guy who made a living building houses for fifteen years before I got my teaching credential and eventually my MA, I was--and continue to be--a little appalled by young adults who don't know how to drive a nail, twist a wrench, or read a tape measure. Many of my high school students would have been better served with classes that taught them to weld, fix engines, or wire houses than to write about their feelings.
So I'm okay with the idea that the place where I'm teaching is not a "real" university. It's a great alternative to a traditional liberal arts education and it's probably more likely to lead to gainful employment in a relatively healthy sector of the economy. And I'm okay with my role as a cultural ambassador, providing enrichment in the area of arts and letters. And I'm definitely okay with the tiny class size and paucity of essay-grading responsibility, which translates into a decent wage for me.
But despite my populist sensibilities, the idea that someone who completes this kind of program ends up with the same degree that took my peers and me four (or more *cough*) years of full time (minus keg parties, road trips, despondent inertia, etc.) studying still sticks in my craw.
It's a truism that the BA is the new high school diploma, and the MA is the new BA, but do the labels we use really matter? Should a BA from a technical college have an asterisk next to it? Do employers care whether your bachelor's came from Ivy U, Very Large State College, or Turnpike Tech? Should they? Or is it only snobs like me who think about these things?