[Milton-L] Wittreich and Carol Barton

Julia Walker walker at geneseo.edu
Wed Apr 18 19:26:27 EDT 2007

don't worry about offending when you are telling the truth.

j walker

On Apr 18, 2007, at 4:48 PM, Richard Hardiman wrote:

> As a final year undergraduate I'm unable to stop myself making a  
> case for the other side here.
> I'm studying in the UK, forgive me if this is old ground for you -  
> but here's some background on the situation in this country:
> There are four degree classes: 1st, 2.1, 2.2 and 3rd. A first is  
> attainable only by a combination of extremely hard work and a lot  
> of luck - I know plenty of people who 'should' have got this grade,  
> but didn't for reasons out of their control. Most get 2.1s, to the  
> extent that it's rapidly becoming the standard. If you get less  
> than a 2.1, to be honest, you're probably better off saying you  
> didn't go to university.
> Without a first (for funding applications), or bankrolling parents,  
> getting onto a graduate program (as I hope to do) is damn nigh  
> impossible. Without a 2.1 getting any kind of graduate level job is  
> damn nigh impossible. That's fine, completely fair. But without a  
> BA you pretty much condemn yourself to a life of low-skilled, low- 
> paying jobs, not going to university is simply not an option. The  
> government has done its level best to get EVERYONE to go to  
> university - and like all 'one-size fits all' solutions too many  
> people are being shoved into an expensive system they have no  
> business or inclination to be in. The system of fees has only just  
> been introduced over here, and it's not embedded in society yet by  
> a long way. You could very easily end up with a 2.2, no hope of a  
> graduate salary, and £12000 of debt without it being your own  
> fault. While studying I've had more than one lecture series pulled,  
> without explanation, apology or reorganisation; I've had individual  
> tutorial sessions cancelled at the last moment - I've a friend who  
> had a tutor who consistantly turned up drunk to one on one  
> sessions. Added to that I've had the financial worries of coming  
> from a low income background with inadequate state support - I  
> don't know if you've ever lain awake worrying about the fact that  
> at 21 your personal credit rating is in the toilet, but I can  
> assure you it's not nice.
> Overall, my experience of university has been fantastic, I've had  
> some wonderful teachers, several of whom I see socially and have  
> enjoyed stretching my brain to (and often beyond) breaking point.  
> But in the instances cited above, and many more, I feel that I and  
> my peers are let down by the system, by society and by individuals  
> who couldn't care less about teaching anymore. In a reductive sense  
> I feel like I've paid a lot of money, come with a mind ready to  
> learn, and been shafted. So yes, at those moments I do feel like a  
> consumer who has been compelled to buy a broken product - and it  
> makes me justifiably angry.
> This is just my experience, but I've been reading a lot of comments  
> here which generalise about undergraduates as devil-may-care  
> wastrels unaware of the privilege they have had conferred on them  
> by working with great minds. It's too broad brush, it's too  
> dismissive, and, quite frankly, it's beneath the intellectual level  
> of this group. If I made such brash assertions in an essay I'd be  
> shredded by any tutor worth their salt - and rightly so.
> Finally, before I close my rant and resume revision, I've got to  
> say that I found the suggestion made yesterday, that the 'me-ist'  
> culture of undergraduates could account for the massacre at  
> Virginia Tech appalling. Cho Seung-hui was a troubled individual  
> who did something beyond terrible; to grab a tub and start  
> thumping, less than twenty four hours after the event, using  
> senseless death to score political and social points is just not on.
> Thanks for reading, I hope I've not offended anyone.
> Rich
> On 4/18/07, Wittreich, Joseph < JWittreich at gc.cuny.edu> wrote:
> Christine,  Since you are so public, I should be too.  You are one  
> of those students, your memo aside, whose imprint in there  
> forever.  You are still amazing.  What you say of me is what I have  
> always said, and comtinue to say, of John Shawcross, and what I  
> know her own students feel about Barbara Lewalski. Thanks.  JW
> ________________________________
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of Christine Gray
> Sent: Tue 4/17/2007 5:53 PM
> To: 'John Milton Discussion List'
> Subject: [Milton-L] Wittreich and Carol Barton
> I know exactly what Carol means about attitudes towards professors  
> in the
> past.
> As a graduate student, I had the extreme and unusual privilege not  
> only of
> taking two courses taught by Joseph Wittreich but also of working  
> for one
> year as his research assistant and spending a lot of time at the  
> Folger for
> him.  He was my version of a movie star--only better: gracious, kind,
> generous, humorous, and, of course, erudite.
> I'm not especially familiar with attitudes at universities today;  
> however,
> when I teach at Hopkins, I do witness that same admiration of/for
> Wittreichian professors.
> Back to lurking--Christine in Baltimore
> -----Original Message-----
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> [mailto: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of James  
> Rovira
> Sent: Monday, April 16, 2007 10:00 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] keep your pronoun to yourself, please
> I will say Carol Barton's description of past attitudes is probably an
> accurate description of specific environments as specific colleges and
> universities, but I don't know (literally -- I am ignorant) how
> accurate a description it is of the general college/university
> environment of the past.
> I will say it is still applicable today of graduate student attitudes
> in many institutions.  It's true of many student attitudes in my
> current grad institution (students go there to study under particular
> profs).  A new Ph.D. in her late 20s said to me two years ago  the
> same thing Carol Barton said on this list earlier today, particularly
> expressing surprise and disappointment at some undergraduate student
> attitudes she encountered her first year teaching.
> So I don't think Carol Barton's statement is that wide of the mark.
> My only disagreement would be that it's not limited to the good old
> days, but does still exist in grad students today, and in some seniors
> who have committed to a discipline.
> Jim R
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