Monday, 13 June 2016

Book Review: The Curve

I'm not really into satire; often involving vulgar toilet humour, and sarcasm. There is far too much of it in this world. I persevered, after all I volunteered to review it, and found that it ended up turning into an actual novel. It is an interesting commentary on university education. There has been much in the news about inflated marks, low standards, remedial classes for those who aren't actually literate enough for a university-level standard. It begins in elementary school, carries on into high school, where kids are passed without necessarily achieving at an acceptable standard. It is a slippery slope.

I read about it first here: Ivory Tower Blues: A University System in Crisis, so the book isn't out of the realm of possibility. The characters, eventually, become likeable, or at least you care how it all turns out. They were fleshed out much better in the second half of the novel. It was worth reading.

 The Curve
From the publisher  - A hilarious new novel, The Curve is a highly entertaining and deeply ironic satire of the current state of legal education, and reads like a cross of Dangerous Minds and The Paper Chase. It features a colorful cast of eccentrics and law school misfits, a satirical plot that—without too much of a stretch—could be ripped from the headlines, and a proven author duo of Jeremy Blachman and Cameron Stracher, who know the law school world and have six previous books between them.

Some of the issues in university education:

  • The dumbing down of a university education
  • The sense of entitlement students feel
  • Disengagement of learners
  • Accessibility vs. suitable student material
  • Student attitudes towards their rights and/or responsibilities (i.e., "It's not my fault!")
  • The expectations of high marks for low quality, low quantity of work
  • The lack of a work ethic: wait'll you hit the real world!
  • The criminal number of part-time instructors, rather than the hiring of full-time (and more costly) Ph.D.s
  • Large class sizes held in small rooms, especially in Faculties of Education when hands-on learning and exemplary curriculum practices should be modelled, but it is not
  • The complicity of university powers-that-be who demand that professors pacify students to keep enrollment high
  • You won't be certain of a free ride (or a $50,000 starting salary) upon graduation
  • Teachers, especially WASP high school guidance counsellors, who are university snobs (universityism?) and believe it is the only way to go (sort of a reverse, theoretically unbiased -ism)
  • Policies (adopted from elementary schools) of no-fail, with every student passing
  • Grads of on-line courses who really haven't mastered their course material, but faked it!
  • Getting bang for your buck
  • Misplaced parental influences: parents push and do not listen, they expect their 'gifted' son/daughter to sail through
  • A university education in the current climate and job market (Some people should NOT be getting a university education: they are much better suited, and will find more success in college or trade schools but the myth is perpetuated. A university degree is not the only avenue for success.)
There has been an upturn in private, for-profit universities, as well as international high school prep schools. They have been in the news. I believe, according to my experiences, that the issues there are worse than in the non-profit, government subsidized university. Profs have no vested interest in ensuring that students with inappropriate attitudes, or behaviours, are cut from a program.

Ivory Tower Blues 2007
Lowering Higher Education 2011


DUTA said...

I think The Curve is probably worth reading as it depicts reality and there's nothing funny about it: low standards of education, inflation in the number of colleges and in the number pf academic titles (dr, prof. etc..).

The sad situation stems from a good intention- narrowing the gaps in a multi- ethnical society, but this is not the proper way to do it, and it will be disastrous for the future of the society.

William Kendall said...

Food for thought, it seems.

Red said...

there's a lot of debate on the dumbing down topic. I think some people have a glorified version of the past.

Olga Hebert said...

I was completely shocked when my step daughter (or maybe her husband) called their daughter's university and demanded a grade change for the daughter. I would have never thought to do something like that and I know my parents certainly considered my grades entirely my responsibility although they certainly made it know they preferred good ones.
Over the thirty-three years that I taught I noticed a huge change in the parental involvement -- in some cases reaching far beyond the bounds of what seemed appropriate. It made my job harder and harder and there was absolutely little to no discernible benefit to the students unless entitled and demanding human beings is what we are going for.
From what I can see there may a bit too much of that entitled attitude in present day work environments now. That "real life" actually is not making the kind of correction we thought it might.
I really appreciated the parents who wanted to be part of the team without the need to dictate every second of every school day for their children. They kept me going back each year, that and I really loved most all of my students and loved teaching.