In the modern-day university, face-to-face communication between students and teachers has become a rare bird - a dodo, if you will.
Of course, the dodo isn't so much a "rare bird" as it is a "long-extinct bird," but, not being an ornithologist, I couldn't think of any rare birds off the top of my head. So if you're reading today's column in the hopes of seeing an exhaustive list of the world's endangered birds, you're out of luck.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that students and teachers in modern-day colleges rarely talk to each other. As an instructor of freshman composition at a large Midwestern university, I know this firsthand. Sure, I see my students during class meetings, but we never engage in conversation - we don't even make eye contact. I talk at them for an hour, they ignore me, and I dismiss them.
Frankly, I don't even bother learning my students' names. Instead, I learn their email addresses. That young man fiddling with his iPod in the back row? Why, that's firstname.lastname@example.org! That young lady browsing the Internet on her laptop in the front row? Why, that's email@example.com! See, email - short for "egalitarian mail," because it's open to everyone, even Scientologists - is the "top of the pops" in today's academy.
Whereas the college kids of yesteryear had to physically visit their teacher's office to request an extension on the big paper, today's college kids make their case via grammatically deformed electronic note. Despite the fact that I didn't live through the good old days, I long for them. I want to see my students put some pizzazz into their pleas for clemency.
I want to see little Janie's tears as she explains that her drunken roommate vomited on her computer, destroying the hard drive and all the files stored there, including her completed final draft of the big paper, which - conscientious student that she is - she'd finished a week early, and I want to hear her sobs when I say, "That's tough, little Janie, but you should've backed your files up."