I do not teach in a first-rate university, and I do not even have a full-time job. I am a "part-timer" or "adjunct" in two local institutions of higher education, a state university and a community college. I make under $40,000/year—quite a bit under if I don't get a full schedule of classes every semester—but I am absolutely committed to giving my students the best education I can give them. The problem is, that I have to fight them every inch of the way, not because of my false beliefs, but because of theirs.
Of course they are all aware that the economy is stacked against them, and they are all worried all the time about what kinds of jobs they will find when they graduate. They believe, in some cloudy sort of way, that a college degree is the ticket to a guaranteed future. In the meantime, most of them hold down time-consuming jobs doing everything from waiting on customers in a tire store to waiting on tables to assisting with patient care in nursing homes. They think that once they get that degree they will be able to leave these jobs behind and become teachers, social workers, businessmen. But in the now, they are giving up so much time to the jobs they have that they treat their academic work as an interfering time clock in thier lives: show up as required; do the minimum; ignore everything that is not deadlined and graded.
I have been trying to get them to use computers to extend class discussion, through online forums and wikis, and they won't do it. On a recent writing assignment I received four papers out of forty on the topic "The Internet is Making Us Stupid." One young man is trying now to write a paper arguing that the use of text messaging will eventually cause people to be unable to speak. He believes this. I tell them over and over that technology is not inherently good or evil, it is a tool, and it is the tool of thier future, but they glower and say that social media are destroying the reality of relationships.
I don't know who has been telling them all this stuff. Surely they didn't think it up for themselves. I have tried a variety of ways to jump-start them, but generally my success rate is about zero. Maybe I am a lousy teacher, but i don't think so. I think I am fighting an environment in which the advantages of mastery are not visible to people whose expectations for their lives are not really very high. It is quite one thing toi be eighteen and a student at a first-rate university, where you can see digital media as means of entry into the world, and quite another to be eighteen and in a, shall we say, lesser percent institution, where all you want to learn is how to survive, in the most limited terms.