Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Letter of Doom

I wrote a very strong letter to my department head about this new program which I am supposed to develop. My concerns revolved around the lack of money to make is successful. At one meeting when I mentioned that I ordered and bought books from the States for my own courses, one professor remarked, "You are such a perfectionist. Just download articles from the Internet and make a reader." This is what we did my first two years here, but good pedagogy requires something better than this. With such a reader, there is no consistency in reading levels, ideas, framing of concepts, and so on. Also the thought of teaching only the theory of journalism and medias studies without any practical applications did not seem that the program would be engaging for students. Therefore, we would start with a splash and then it would soon fade into oblivion from lack of interest. The thinking here is to just slap something together and call it new. When it does not work out, it is the students fault for not trying, not caring, not being interested enough, but never the fact that we cannot be on the cutting edge. Hungary is at the bottom of the list of European countries in technology, so what competitive advantage does this give our students once they graduate? Before they even get close to graduation, their education is already years behind other countries in some areas. With some forethought, I e-mailed my letter to my former teaching partner. He taught at ELTE for six years and knows the system as the players well. He agreed the letter was strong, made some points where I should cut and condense others. As he mentioned, it did contain many truths that they would not want to hear, but needed to be faced with. After making the revisions, I sent off the letter as a Word document with a note in the e-mail that this was a loving and supportive letter with my students in mind. I waited and waited, and panicked at the length of time it took for a response. This evening, I did get a response from my department head who stated right off that she could not agree with me more. We are going to meet to discuss the options. However, being the person I am, I did come up with 23 courses in the area of journalism, media studies, and academic writing along with course descriptions and sent that off too. It seemed to me that this would bring clarity to the points I made in my letter by showing that a media course needs to have movies if you are going to study the portrayal of race and class in American film. Additionally, what good are journalism classes if there are no hands on experiences? A writing lab would be perfect for this so students can create a newsletter, a blog or write an article for possible publication. Most of my colleagues are busy with their own professional development, which is not necessarily reflected back into the classroom. They look for grants and opportunities for themselves, but not for the program or the university. I feel if I expose a problem, I have to also offer solutions for it at the same time. Those ideas are cooking.

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