When I hear the word rigor…


… I reach for my emollient.

I get occasional emails from the professors’ trade journal Inside Higher Education (which really ought to be called Higher Education: On The Inside. A prison movie, y’know.)

The experience is a lot like getting Tweets from people on the deck of the Titanic: the whole elephantine sector seems to be eating itself alive.

I was delighted the other day to see an item in this dismal journal calling for more rigor — and ‘intentionality’, a very dated corporate buzzword — in study-abroad programs. Now this seems to me a lot like calling for ‘rigor’ and ‘intentionality’ in frat-row toga parties.

There seem to be two reasons why people go to college: to get their ticket punched for a career, and to have a good time. Take away the good time, and it’s a bit like McDonald’s not using salt on the French fries. People will go to Burger King.

The article, to its credit, recognizes the problem, up to a point, anyway. Some academical burger-flipper is quoted:

Our aspirations are weighed down by deeply rooted consumer values, tacit agreements, let’s call them, which are abundantly visible throughout the wider American educational system, but which arguably do not serve desirable learning outcomes in study abroad.

Well, desirable for whom, exactly? The kids go on these jaunts for the same reasons that the English gentry used to go on the Grand Tour: first, to say they’d been there, and second, to get laid by somebody who speaks a different language, uses a different perfume, might have slightly different manners in the sack. From what I’ve heard, by these standards, the ‘outcomes’ are generally pretty good(*).

Professor Burgerflip, according to the article, went on deplore “the field’s emphases on student satisfaction as opposed to measurable learning and growth, on inclusive access versus selectivity and merit.”

Very divided in mind, these people. They want to market their product to anybody and everybody; but not only do they want to go easy on the salt, they want to give you a spanky every time you walk in the door.

How do you combine these two goals? Conscription?

(*) For the record: I myself did not do a ‘year abroad’ as an undergraduate; too poor. In grad school I finally got a fellowship that took me out of the country — to Ireland, a place where in those days nobody got laid. I must have some huge karmic debt to pay from a previous life.

9 thoughts on “When I hear the word rigor…

  1. My semester in France (complete with Eurail Pass trip after) amounted to half a baguette: I got laid, but the girl was American. Nice gal from Ohio — an exotic locale to a New Yawkuh, come to think of it.

    Yes, the point of study abroad is not to study much at all. Or rather to study a broad.

  2. As the leader in shoddy copy editing, the champ, really, at SMBIVA, since Paine went on sabbatical, I delight in pointing out that the word “to” appears to be omitted from the sentence that begins with “Professor Burgerflip…”.

    I discovered recently that the VoiceOver facility is very useful in highlighting blunders, grammatical as well as typographical. Give it a try.

  3. Also troubling; some unscrupulous unscrupuloids have cooked up a scam that should shock us all–

    [The] scientists had stumbled into a parallel world of pseudo-academia, complete with prestigiously titled conferences and journals that sponsor them.

  4. That’s so true. My own daughter tried to use that “semester abroad” excuse the first year she was going to college in Montreal to tunnel her way back to Cali and spend some quality time with her old buddies but luckily her college only qualified East Coast universities and so she was shit out of luck!

  5. Our aspirations are weighed down by deeply rooted consumer values, tacit agreements, let’s call them, which are abundantly visible throughout the wider American educational system, but which arguably do not serve desirable learning outcomes in study abroad.

    Eeeww, cripes. That quote just made me throw up in my mouth a little. Thanks a lot, man.

    But, aaaaaaanyway…

    I know I mentioned this in a couple of other education threads, but just to recap quickly for those who missed it…

    I’m totally behind Fadduh Smiff on the hypocrisy and farcical nature of modern academia at the university level. Still, I seem to have missed out on most of that as I was an art student which, as most of you know, isn’t like a “normal” college student. In fact, at my school, like on most campuses, the art students were like the idiot savant bastard children of the school, unless you studied at someplace like Pratt or the Corcoran School.

    That said… it’s quite true that art schools come with their own complement of farce and hypocrisy among their ruling class, but at least most art students seem aware enough to not take it seriously and, in fact, take every opportunity to mock it viciously. In fact, in a perverse twist of fate, I actually managed to win a couple of national awards for my mockery in the student weekly. I still don’t know how the hell that happened.

    I think that was the big difference between us idiot bastard children in the art school and “normal” college students — all the “normal” students actually thought all that horseshit was important, whereas my friends and I considered it entertainment.

    Sadly, I also couldn’t get a crack at that studying abroad as I was too middle-class — too poor to pay on my own, too rich to qualify for aid — and had to settle for listening to my roommate’s wild stories of the semester he spent in France, hitchhiking and drinking and painting and drinking and nailing wild French hippie chicks and drinking. There didn’t seem to me to be any problems with “rigor” as he managed to get in at least a couple of hours of drinking every day. Oh, yeah, and he painted a bit.

    Now, I wouldn’t express it in as reductionist a manner as Fadduh Smiff, but, yeah… I spent four years in art school to sharpen up my chops, get the proper formal training I needed for my planned career as a professional illustrator and designer — and also to have bong hits for breakfast, beer for dinner, raise hell all night, hang out with a bunch of agitators, and chase after the models (especially that one from senior year studio class who looked like a woman in a Vaughn Bodé cartoon. Yeeeeaahhhh, wowza).

    Fuck it, man, I’m not going to lie about it. I regret nothing.

  6. OT but, given the photo, I have too —

    ————————Guinea Pigs a Dining Delicacy in Peru
    ——————————December 21, 2007

    ”She slices off two thin filets of the white, low-fat meat, batters it in wheat flour and fries it until golden. The filets are served on a bed of watercress “to give it a little freshness,” with cherry tomatoes and drizzled peanut sauce and bright green cilantro oil. Here in the birthplace of the potato, no plate is complete without a sampling of Peruvian tubers grown high in the Andes: golden mashua and oca, whose colors vary like Indian corn kernels.

    Despite the booming popularity of Andean ingredients abroad – especially grains like quinoa – cuy-frites may be a few years from the menus at New York’s top restaurants. But the low-cholesterol, high protein white meat may be worth trying. It tastes a bit like a cross between rabbit and dark chicken meat.

    “It was delicious. Marinated whole overnight in orange juice and garlic and spit roasted over an open fire,” Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel series Bizarre Foods, said in an e-mail interview. He sampled the delicacy in neighboring Ecuador last year. “Cuy should be popular in the USA once we adopt a different attitude about alternative foods, especially ones that some people keep as pets.”

    Guinea pigs are native to the high Andes, and have been an important source of protein for millenia. Today, they are common in rural Andean households as a sort of savings account – they are so easy and cheap to breed, that when a family needs money, they can sell a dozen or so. …”


    Back on ‘the other side, I once had a prof offer to sell an ‘A’ for $5000.

  7. Oh yeah, no one in class accepted.

    And, one more –

    ”Guinea pig cooked in the central Andean Huancayo style is rubbed with Andean herbs – including minty huacatay sauce – battered in flakey quinoa flour and fried in a deep red sauce of Peruvian peppers aji panca and aji mirasol, white wine, cumin and an onion and garlic confit.”

    Tell me these don’t sound tasty.

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