1.27.2011

My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan

I just finished what will hopefully be the last chunk of reading time wasted for awhile.  My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student by (pseudonym) Rebekah Nathan was an interesting concept and wasn't terribly written, but I don't feel I learned anything from it or gained any insight into my students or their experiences. 

The story goes that this professor of anthropology decided to do an ethnographic study of college students at her own university by enrolling as a full-time student herself.  When I first heard of the book, I thought it was a true "undercover" story, where the young, hip professor "passes" as a first-year student to get the full scoop.  Instead, this professor was in her fifties at the time, and although she was relatively fit, no one mistook her for a traditional student.  She claims that merely being a student made her a peer to her fellow students, but I know she was not privy to many of the conversations and experiences that those students were having with their true peers.  She was too obviously an outsider, and she was attempting to maintain (as she should, I suppose) ethical boundaries regarding research using human subjects, so she could only use that which was readily available and visible in drawing her conclusions.  Now, don't get me wrong, I think her research methodology was above board and provided some quality information, but it wasn't insightful.  Some of that may have come from the time frame.  Her entrance into student life in 2003 didn't come too terribly far after my own exit from that world, so perhaps I feel I already know what students were like then.  I also know that students today are not like they were in 2003.  I mean, there was no facebook in 2003, for heavens sake.  No twitter.  No iphone.  It was a completely different world. 

Anyhow, I skimmed the last half of this one and allowed myself to go ahead and start The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao last night.  I am finished with dragging myself through these books that are not going anywhere. I am also finished with gazing lovingly at books at the library (Nicole Krauss' Great House in particular) and denying myself the pleasure of reading them because I have so many on my shelves.  Why am I torturing myself?  Read good books.  Enjoy it.  That's all it should be about.  Right?

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