There was a time when office hours were one of the highlights of my teaching at Syracuse University. Indeed, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that some of the most memorable and, indeed, illuminating conversations that I have had with students often took place during office hours.
To be sure, there were students who dropped by during office hours to discuss either the reading or an aspect of the class lecture. But there were far more students who simply dropped just to have a wonderful conversation. And these were not at all students with whom there was already a marvelous professional bond between us.
Alas, within the last few years I can count on one hand—and not move all five fingers—the number of students who have dropped by simply to have an interesting question. And the point just made holds although I am teaching close to 1000 students each and every academic year. In the Fall of 2016, for instance, the enrollment for my two courses amounted to 600 students: 400 in one course and 200 in the other. But throughout the entire semester, not more than 2 students ever showed up for office hours. And let me add here that there is ample evidence office hour visits have declined across the board.
Clearly, the question that mightily presents itself is the following: Why has there been such a dramatic drop in office hour visits on the part of students? And question just raised holds all the more so given the reality that students are pursuing jobs or post-graduate studies; and in either case a letter of reference is ever so likely to be needed. And an indisputable truth is that nothing gives a letter of reference credibility like remarks that, via concrete example, speak to the genuine intellectual powers of the student for whom the letter is written. And good conservations can bring out that reality in a most majestic manner.
My inclination is to blame the tremendous proliferation of technology which has resulted in countless many young people not appreciating or even grasping the implications of their very own behavior. That is to say, it seems that technology has given rise to a phenomenal decrease in intellectual and moral sensibilities.
Office hours have literally dropped by the way side even by students who are in college in order to obtain the mastery that is necessary for pursuing a career with success. Commonsense should say that forging a wonderful intellectual relationship with at least a few of your professor will mightily enhance your prospects of pursing your career successfully. But seems not to be the commonsense that folks have. And that reality says something quite disturbing about the influence of technology, namely that technology can be a tremendous impediment to our seeing things as we ought to see them.
To be sure, not all people are influenced by technology in a negative manner.
In other words, there is a kind of affirmation that folks are receiving via technology that results in them giving preference to technology no matter when. But if I am right, the question that mightily presents itself is the following: Just how is that so much affirmation is thought to flow merely from receiving a phone call? After all, (a) it is simply not the case that the vast majority of phone calls are occasioned by some urgent matter on the part of the caller. Nor is it the case that (b) nowadays so very many folks are absolutely extraordinary when it comes to affirming another. Claim (a) is obvious. And the truth of point (b) is borne out by the reality that countless many people do not have the command of language that folks routinely had once upon a time. And an indisputable truth is that affirmation is at its very best when the language used to affirm another is truly majestic.
© Laurence Thomas