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the privilege of a small college

eheller's picture

In the conversation between Ira Shor and Paulo Friere, Ira brings up the point that in most college classes, teachers "didactically lecture" to students, a "'cost effective' education" with "minimum personal contact between professors and students". She goes on to day that professor-contact and dialogue is reserved "for students at the most costly universities, where money is invested in small classes for the elite." When reading this, I immediately thought of the small classes at Haverford and Bryn Mawr. I always thought of this as a perk of going to a smaller college, but after reading this, I realized that it is a privilege that few students get to experience.

Many of my friends from high school went to UMass Amherst, the flagship MA state school. Though they are still recieving a quality education, I was shocked when they told me about their lectures, which could be as big as 400 people. They can't really ask questions, have no class discussion, and their professor doesn't know their name. They were equally surprised when I told them about my 15-30 person classes, where the professor knows each person individually, classes are discussion-based, and there are no TA's. UMass is a much more affordable option for some people than an elite private school. I am lucky to be able to afford to go to a small liberal arts school, and I have taken the advantages of small classes for granted. 

I wonder how one would go about solving this problem. Yes, many large lectures have discussion sections, but they are with a grad student, not the professor. Does this make up for the lack of "dialogical method" in the larger class? How do you keep dialogue from not being soley a privilege of the elite?