minutia press.
Blogging profs and students

Nathan posts about his online existence, keeping up with people using blogs. He writes

To be honest, it is a little bit of a weird feeling at first. 20 years ago it would be hard to experience the thoughts and musings of one of your professors outside the realm of class, but I'm incredibly glad that I can now.

Well, first let me say how glad I am that I found the world of blogs and that I can experience the thoughts and musings of my students, colleagues, and friends. I started blogging at the suggestion of David and michael, and they have built quite a great community through their blog sites.

Now I could be totally wrong about this, but my image of how academia worked long ago (more than 20 years ago) involves students and professors in a much more interactive environment. Way back then, not many people went to the university, and professors probably worked with far fewer students. As a result, both got to know each other better. And the learning process was much more bidirectional than it is today. Instead of lecture, there was discussion.

At Rice, students live in residential colleges (the same one for all four years), and there is a faculty member living in a house adjacent to the college with his or her spouse and children and pets. The "master family" as they are are called are present at meals, and you get to know them fairly well. One such family even put me and my roommate up in Scottland when we travelled there in the Summer and they were there on sabbatical.

I understand, from profs who have been at Wash U back in the 60's, that there was a time when students wanted a great distance from faculty. Faculty represented the "establishment" and Forsythe was a chasm across which faculty dared not venture. Now there are many programs to involve faculty with student residential life. I was a 3rd floor (non residential) associate of Liggett last year, and had dinner almost every Wednesday with the students of that floor. It was a great experience, and some of the students keep in touch with me still.

So I agree with Nathan, that 20 years ago this kind of interaction would have been difficult. And now, blogging presents a great opportunity for people to correspond using words as carefully chosen as they wish and on topics they find of interest. Seems to me this is a very good thing.