A Brit’s view of U.S. college culture

British college students who study abroad in the U.S. should expect a different college culture, writes Sophie Pitman in The Telegraph.

As an undergrad in Britain, Pitman was taught to argue with classmates, she writes.

Regardless of each student’s genuine beliefs, it was seen as beneficial to challenge, question, and refine one another’s interpretations. Discord was expected, and not taken as personal. I started out in America with the same approach, disagreeing with my classmates vocally. I was met with blank stares and scowls, and quickly learnt that discussions here are more cordial and positive.

. . . In America, the customer is always king – even in the classroom. In my humble opinion, American students act as consumers and demand more from their tuition fees than their British counterparts. Expect to be asked by your professors for formal written feedback during or at the end of term, and you might be able to access former students’ evaluations of your prospective tutor when picking classes. I have even witnessed students asking for regrades when they didn’t like their grade – something I was initially shocked by.

She also warns her Brits to expect less alcohol — and no wine parties with the prof — and more carbohydrates.

Consumer students aren’t ‘paying’ to think

Students see themselves as consumers, not learners, writes a community college professor. When he discussed, in a rhetoric class, how mores and opinions have changed on a controversial topic, a student objected, saying, “I’m not paying for your opinion.”

. . . the current emphasis on “customer service” in academe seems to have given some students the impression that they have the right to “purchase” only those ideas that they personally agree with, and that all other ideas or opinions are at best irrelevant and at worst akin to faulty products or unsatisfactory service.

Ultimately, students are paying for faculty members’ opinions, or, at least, their professional judgment, he adds. It’s “not just what we know, but what we think about what we know.”

College consumers need more info

Should colleges publish a report card for consumers? Career coach Marty Nemko is looking for feedback.

New students and those making progress toward a credential will get enrollment priority under a reform plan approved by the California community colleges board of governors.