Students see themselves as consumers, not learners, writes Rob Jenkins, who teaches English at Georgia Perimeter Community College,in The Chronicle of Higher Education. He raised a controversial topic in his introductory rhetoric class to illustrate how social mores and public opinions change over time. A student objected: “But that’s just your opinion, and I’m not paying for your opinion.”
Students seem to believe they have “a right to be shielded from opinions they don’t like,” Jenkins writes.
…it’s virtually impossible to talk about important issues like race, gender, religion, sexuality, evolution, abortion, or justice (just to name a few) without saying something–or assigning some reading, or making some allusion–that someone might perceive as offensive. (Try asking a bunch of future nurses to read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”) Yet it’s a vital part of their education for students to read and think and talk about such issues, examining their own beliefs and assumptions in light of what great thinkers past and present have had to say. That’s a major part of what we mean when we use the term “critical thinking.”
Students also need to learn that being offended is an emotional response, not a rational one. If you don’t like something I’ve said–or, as in this case, something somebody else said–don’t just get upset about it. See if you can formulate a cogent rebuttal. That, too, is a key element of critical thinking.
Ultimately, students are paying for faculty members’ opinions, writes Jenkins. It’s “not just what we know, but what we think about what we know.”
. . . the current emphasis on “customer service” in academe seems to have given some students the impression that they have the right to “purchase” only those ideas that they personally agree with, and that all other ideas or opinions are at best irrelevant and at worst akin to faulty products or unsatisfactory service.
Many students aren’t developing critical-thinking skills in college, according to the Academically Adrift study. No wonder, Jenkins concludes. They’re “not paying for” thinking.