January-April 2023Vol.XXXV No. 3

Some Thoughts on the Decline of Students’ Focus

Alexander Slocum

I too have observed a steady decline in focus of students. (See: “Never Mind the Firehose, You Can’t Even Lead Them to Water,” MIT Faculty Newsletter, November/December 2022.) Adding insult to injury is when I recently politely asked a student who showed up consistently late and opened their laptop and just did not seem to be paying attention if there were any issues perhaps S^3 might help with, I received then a lawyer-written email accusing me of being unwelcoming. . . . Over the past decade I have documented many such attacks, and there is no penalty for false accusations and slander, so I expect a lot more to come.

As we have been trying hard to be empathetic to student’s statements that they feel faculty are too often too demanding and sometimes downright mean, the pendulum seems to have swung hard over and there is an invitation to use the system as an excuse to make up for being unprepared and inattentive. All that matters is to “get” an MIT degree to make M-O-N-E-Y. “Earn” the degree is no longer in the vocabulary.

Welcome to the Massachusetts Institute of Tawdriness ranked #1 by US News (for now until reality catches up with us). 

The solution is simple, TRUTH in advertising and jettison US News rankings, something I have been advocating for years.

Of course, I offer the following poem. (Please note this poem was written totally by me, no AI help. You can tell because a critical part of the message is the SHAPE of the poem.)

It’s Rank

Ranking of schools
Is a game for simple fools
For all US to rely on the News
Is for many good people to lose

And it drives schools 
To behave like fools
To spend and hype
Such sad tripe

Often late for class?
No time to study & pass?
Just accuse thine professor!
They are guilty as oppressor!

Thus if embrace the rank
Expect an accompanying stank
Or cast off hype and hocus pocus
Discover true magic of passion & focus

For what some rank the best
May not be for all the rest
Focus on your passion
Not what’s in fashion

To attend for the name
Is a very foolish game
You may get degree
But not be free

If one is too much a mental boot camp
To another school take the off ramp
Embrace what you truly love
And be free as a dove

Truth in advertising
Is what I am simply advising
Replace quotas with aspirations
Motivate all with high expectations