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Becoming a professor

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
31 messages over 4 pages: 13 4  Next >>
JS-1
Diglot
Senior Member
Ireland
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144 posts - 166 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Arabic (Egyptian), German, Japanese, Ancient Egyptian, Arabic (Written)

 
 Message 9 of 31
13 June 2009 at 8:24am | IP Logged 
Universities in many countries favour specialised education, so it is not possible to mix
courses from different disciplines, and it is quite common to study a single subject for
four years.
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OneEye
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
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518 posts - 784 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, Taiwanese, German, French

 
 Message 10 of 31
13 June 2009 at 9:01am | IP Logged 
Sure, for example I know that's the case in the UK. But zerothinking's response sounded like he had never heard of anybody being required to take a course. The strong reaction surprised me ("How dare they?"), and seemed out of place when it's such a common thing.
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andee
Tetraglot
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Japan
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3 sounds
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 Message 11 of 31
13 June 2009 at 2:59pm | IP Logged 
I think zerothinking was mostly referring to the compulsory foreign language.

Most people that study something not directly related to their major solely because it's compulsory just do what is needed for the credit and then forget everything post-exam. The foreign language class time is mediocre and insufficient even when the student is dedicated, so it's not hard to see how a compulsory language course to someone with no interest would be a total waste of time and resources.

In Australia it's the norm to only study what it is you are actually studying. It seems entirely alien to us to have to take a compulsory math class for instance if we are studying history or something totally unrelated. We have core units that contribute to our major and then you are free to decide how you make up the rest of your credits. Most people don't venture too far from their chosen discipline though.
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zerothinking
Senior Member
Australia
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 Message 12 of 31
14 June 2009 at 1:01am | IP Logged 
OneEye wrote:
zerothinking wrote:
I think compulsory subjects at university is a
travesty! How dare they? If they don't
want to learn a foreign language they won't learn it. The fact that a university does
that is very concerning. English speakers don't need a foreign language to succeed.
It's true. It will help them in life and is enriching but it's not necessary. I can see
why they wouldn't want to put in the effort for something they don't care
about.


Is that really a foreign concept? I know university systems differ from country to
country but I didn't think it was by that much. This is very standard in America. Most
universities here require a certain number of courses in several subjects (math,
sciences, English composition, foreign language, history, etc.). Then within the major
certain courses will usually be required and certain ones will be left up to the
student to decide on. Many programs require a minor, which is generally up to the
student, and there is usually some room for electives.

Is it really the case in Australia that you can choose which classes to take without
anything being compulsory? That seems very odd to me, and more of a travesty than
having a few required courses. Students will miss out on the benefits of a well-rounded
education if they were left to decide every course they take (I know I would probably
take nothing but language and history classes if I could, but I appreciate the other
classes and the broad knowledge I receive from them).


My response was more about a language course being compulsory. I suppose I didn't make
that clear. I apologize about that.


Edited by zerothinking on 15 June 2009 at 7:10am

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Dixon
Groupie
Canada
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54 posts - 74 votes 
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 13 of 31
14 June 2009 at 1:17pm | IP Logged 
OneEye wrote:
Is that really a foreign concept?

At my Canadian university, the only courses required are two on academic writing in English. All classes require academic writing, like the ability to cite references properly. Not all classes require you to know Spanish or Japanese. To most people, learning Spanish or Japanese would be a waste of their time.


Quote:
Students will miss out on the benefits of a well-rounded education if they were left to decide every course they take

No student will get a well-rounded education by being forced to sit in a class he doesn't like or isn't convinced is useful. He will cram a bunch of stuff for a test and then forget it.

Nor do I think a university is a place to get a well-rounded education anyway, but that's another topic. Why do engineering students need to be indoctrinated with socialist propaganda in history class when they're paying to learn their trade? Universities are just about the only place in the world where it's still respectable to be a Maoist. One could get a *real* well-rounded education by reading great works of literature, not sitting in a philosophy class in which the professor declares "Everything is absurd!"
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Splog
Diglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
anthonylauder.c
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 Message 14 of 31
14 June 2009 at 2:01pm | IP Logged 
andee wrote:

In Australia it's the norm to only study what it is you are actually studying.


That is true in the UK too.

I have been a student both at a US university (Masters) and a UK university (for a PhD) - and found that the US students had a relatively poor level of education at high school, compared to other countries.

These supplementary subjects are necessary at university for US students to "catch up" internationally. Of course, it means that the "majors" of BA and BSc degrees in the US are diluted with these other topics. Therefore, it seems to me much more common for US students to then take a Masters degree, where there is a greater focus on the actual "major" being studied.

By the time students reach the PhD level, the US students appear to have caught up with, and perhaps even overtaken, those from other countries.
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Kugel
Senior Member
United States
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 Message 15 of 31
14 June 2009 at 7:18pm | IP Logged 
It depends a lot on what major you are going for. Most science majors don't need to take all the additional classes that everyone here is thinking of.   

And is the requirement of 9 credits really too much to ask for for Humanities? That's only 3 classes.

As for U.S. high school students having a poor level of education, I think that mainly depends on what school district you are referring to.

If a college student is taking foreign language classes at college for requirements, then that only means the high school guidance counselor/student didn't have the necessary foresight, as this requirement could have been painlessly taken care of in 9th and 10th grade.      
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OneEye
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
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518 posts - 784 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, Taiwanese, German, French

 
 Message 16 of 31
14 June 2009 at 10:22pm | IP Logged 
Quote:
At my Canadian university, the only courses required are two on academic writing in English. All classes require academic writing, like the ability to cite references properly. Not all classes require you to know Spanish or Japanese. To most people, learning Spanish or Japanese would be a waste of their time.


Maybe some clarification would help. Not everyone is necessarily required to take a foreign language. It depends on the university and the major. The university I'll be attending next year, for example, requires all undergrads to take a few low-level math and science classes, along with some history, English composition, and other humanities-related subjects. This is the "core curriculum," and is usually taken the first year or so. Then, people majoring (specializing, concentraing...depending on where you live) in humanities-type fields will take an additional science class or two, and a foreign language. History of science or philosophy of science is allowed to substitute for normal science courses, and many people have already passed the language requirement in high school, so it is waived.

All these extra requirements may very well be due to low standards in American high schools (Splog's post seems right on). But that's another post in itself.

Dixon wrote:
No student will get a well-rounded education by being forced to sit in a class he doesn't like or isn't convinced is useful. He will cram a bunch of stuff for a test and then forget it.


By that line of reasoning, why don't we toss out primary and secondary education as well? If the kids don't like to be there, they won't learn anything anyway, so why force them to sit there?

Yes, many students do just what you mentioned. That is hardly the university's problem. It's more a problem with the student's lack of concern with his own education.

Quote:
Why do engineering students need to be indoctrinated with socialist propaganda in history class when they're paying to learn their trade?


Maybe we differ in opinion here, but I don't think universities should be thought of as trade schools. Yes, you may learn a trade, but the primary focus of a university is education and research, not to prepare worker bees (although many see it that way).

Quote:
One could get a *real* well-rounded education by reading great works of literature


No argument there. However, a university is a good place to become introduced to these works and the ideas they contain, and for guided discourse on these topics. It sounds like you've had a bad experience with some professors, but the fault lies with the professors thinking it is their place to impose their views on you, and with the university allowing that to happen. Education (from Latin ex, "from within" and ducare, "to guide") is guiding the student to think on his own and form his own opinion, not indoctrinating him.


By the way, one wonderful thing about having a "core curriculum" (IMO) is the opportunity to be exposed to some great experts in various fields, rather than high school teachers that are just regurgitating what they learned in their undergrad classes. One of the art history classes I took while studying for my music degree was taught by one of the curators of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. The other was taught by an Egyptologist that had been on several digs in Egypt and some of his findings were on display at the museum (which hosts one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in the world outside of Egypt itself). I wouldn't have traded those classes for more music classes if you paid me. They were some of the best educational experiences I've ever had, and a high school course in art history would not have provided that.


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