Education for what? Views at two colleges
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio
MONDAY morning. Outside, the granite buildings of Ohio State University glint in hard sunlight. Students stream up and down High Street, the main drag through this part of Columbus.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Here, inside Scott Hall, freshman Molly Armstrong elbows her way through the crowded stairway and says over her shoulder: ''If you want to get to know your professors here, you can. I had one class last quarter where the teacher knew my name. But this quarter, with two or three hundred kids (in a class), there's no way.''
Walk around Ohio State's sprawling, 3,243-acre campus and you get a quick collage of mass education. The sheer glut of teaching and learning in this institutional Mixmaster is staggering. And students praise the school for its munificent diversity, which gives them the most, if not the best, of everything.
Almost every student you talk to here speaks with a good deal of praise about the place. After first-year adjustment problems, they seem to get swept up in the immensity of Ohio State, with its 40,000-plus student body.
Not that immensity doesn't bring problems. Dealing with OSU has made at least one senior, Jonathan Sokobin, ''more cynical about bureaucracy.''
''This school is a monolith,'' he says. ''The university wants to put you through a meat grinder, because that's the easy way to deal with you.''
Molly Armstrong has spent the last year learning to negotiate such challenges.
The 19-year-old freshman takes her seat in the raked, amphitheater-style classroom with about 50 other students. The professor, a dark figure in the near-distance, starts writing on a light-projection table and ripping through pre-calculus math problems.
''I don't want the cosine of alpha. I want alpha. So what do I do?'' she asks. Then, without waiting for a reply, she moves ahead. One student in a peaked cap and glasses talks nonstop to a friend. Neither of them has the slightest idea of what the professor is saying, and she seems oblivious of them, too.
Molly Armstrong, on the other hand, takes down all the problems, whispering the answers to herself.
''I think I'm getting a good education,'' she muses later, gazing out her dorm window with its view of the giant OSU stadium.
''It doesn't come easy, though. You have to fight for it. I love the classics and ancient history. Deep down, I'd like to be here just to learn. But you begin to feel like it's a race against the clock.''
While they may not all put it the same way, most students interviewed for this article seem to share her sentiments.
''It's all for a piece of paper at the end,'' says Craig Vander Veen, an architecture major. However, he also acknowledges, ''. . . You can't get it without learning a lot.''
People like Marisol Rodriguez and Janice Henderson, both juniors, speak of college more as a place to become acclimated socially and to get the credentials to help one move into the marketplace than as a place to learn.
One who talks about ''knowledge for the sake of knowledge'' is Elizabeth Park , a senior majoring in astronomy. She knows that the field she is entering offers few jobs and little pay, but she says the pursuit of knowledge is a reward in itself.
The more common, pragmatic view, however, can be heard from people like Jonathan Sokobin, who works to pay for his education. Mr. Sokobin earns part of his keep by tutoring OSU athletes, whom he calls the school's ''budding revenue earners''; today he is in an upstairs lounge in a Tudoresque building, while downstairs - waiting their turn - sits part of the brawn that keeps this university on the nation's scoreboards.
Sokobin sizes up his reason for being at Ohio State, rather than a private school, in one word: ''Price.''
''It's costing $5,000 (a year) to go here,'' he explains, ''as opposed to $10 ,000 at a private institution. And I'm getting a good education. Besides, I don't think I could have stood the pressure at a place like Michigan (State University),'' where the competition in the economics department is much keener, he says.
The bearded, affable economics major argues that the output of money and effort translates into something more than a ticket to a plusher lifes tyle.