November 20th, 2005

sixteen tons

In Which Dr. Bayazit's Course Evaluation Slips From "Poor" To "Putrid"

So a current push in the Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science is to improve students' "cultural awareness", whatever that catchphrase-of-the-day means this time. What it's supposed to mean, as far as I can tell from this new "Engineering Ethics" seminar course being offered, is that we're supposed to learn how what we're learning needs to be used, we need to learn how much damage we can do by doing things wrong and why not to- just minor suppliments.

Even as extra credit, I don't think it's supposed to mean Dr. Bayazit assigns us to go to the St. Louis Art Museum, especially not for a full 1/3 of the full value of the assignment.

Even as I plan how badly I'm going to have to nail him on the final course evaluation, I've got sympathy for him and understand what he's saying. We really do need to get out from behind our computers and do something cultural for a change. There's more to life than computer architecture. But the weekend before Thanksgiving is bad for homework- why did he think that it would be a good time to send students off campus for something wildly off the subject?

In a sense, it's not any worse than anything an art student would have to do- I suspect they find themselves assigned to field trips to the Art Museum with great regularity. But CS students here seem to be under more pressure than most students not in the Engineering school with regard to having assignments keeping us busy- rather than "only" having to study out of the text, we've got a lot of explicit assignments that need solutions by very fixed deadlines. We honestly don't have the time to go to the Art Museum, or whatever else is being thrown at us. Or maybe I'm overgeneralizing and my time management is worse than I think- with classmates talking about going to other cities for three-day weekends, it's quite possible. I know I sure don't have the time.

As frustrated as I am with him right now, I have sympathy for Dr. Bayazit. I'm going to barbeque him on the course evaluation, because I don't have any other choice- it's a poorly-taught course with assignments that reflect a total disrespect for students' time. His heart's in the right place- he just needs more training on how to teach a college course and/or speak English.
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