Letter to the Editor: Emory’s Dept. of Educational Studies a Sore Loss
To the Editor:
Dean Forman stated that Emory University will “phase out a small number of [its] undergraduate programs… in order to ensure that [students] are immersed in an academic environment of the highest caliber.” By cutting the Division of Educational Studies, Emory University is straying away from its ultimate goal of reaching the highest level of academia. The Division of Educational Studies does two things exceptionally that promote a higher level of learning: (1) develop meaningful student-faculty relationships and (2) use applicable, practical, and interactive methods of learning.
The Division of Educational Studies exceptionally develops meaningful student-faculty relationships. Emory takes pride in having a low student-to-faculty ratio, which in turn allows students to truly connect and develop relationships with faculty members. In the Division of Educational Studies, I have multiple advisors who each have no more than 5-6 advisees. I meet with each of them on a regular basis, at least once a month, on their request. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know them not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level as well.
On the flip side, in the Department of Sociology, my one advisor has approximately 50-60 advisees. He has never requested to meet with me. He does not know I am one of his advisees. He does not know my name. And I’m currently taking one of his classes.
The Division of Educational Studies actually understands, relative to other departments on campus, how to educate its students and how students learn. The department stresses the importance of engaged, practical, and interactive methods of learning. Methods include required tutoring sessions in public schools, creative and thought-provoking student-led discussions and presentations, and progressive and futuristic methods of learning and sharing knowledge such as creating video blogs and Google sites.
Conversely, I cannot count how many classes in other departments I’ve been in where a professor stands at the front of a room and lectures straight off of a powerpoint day after day, while the vast majority of the students are just surfing on Facebook or ESPN, counting down till the class ends.
Yet somehow, the professor falsely/naively believes that his/her students are actually learning something during those lectures. Many other professors believe that assigning two midterms and a final accurately measures how much a student understands the material and gains long-term knowledge. We all know how that process works out: Cram the week before the exam. Take the exam. Somehow manage to get an A. Forget everything you just learned.
The decision that the university has made to close the Division of Educational Studies deeply frustrates and saddens me. While I am fortunate that the phase out part and eventual closing of the department will not have major implications on my personal academic agenda—the department will not be officially closed until the 2016-2017 school year—it is disappointing to know that Emory has chosen to deny current and future students the opportunity to learn in one of its most personal, practical, and interactive departments. Likewise, it is disappointing to know that many of Emory’s best educators are being forced to look for work elsewhere or join departments under the leadership of inferior professors and less effective methods of educating students.
While I am sure there are reasons that Emory University is closing the Division of Educational Studies, Emory’s inability to see what it is losing by doing so has me second-guessing Emory’s administrative leadership and decision-making, as well as Emory’s credibility as a liberal arts institution.
Joshua T. Feng
Class of 2014