From First Things (excerpt)
The American Freshman Survey, which has followed students since 1966, proves the point. One prompt in the questionnaire asks entering freshmen about “objectives considered to be essential or very important.” In 1967, 86 percent of respondents checked “developing a meaningful philosophy of life,” more than double the number who said “being very well off financially.”
Naturally, students looked to professors for moral and worldly understanding. Since then, though, finding meaning and making money have traded places. The first has plummeted to 45 percent; the second has soared to 82 percent.
they’re quite content with their teachers; after all, most students receive sure approval. In 1960, only 15 percent of grades were in the “A” range, but now the rate is 43 percent, making “A” the most common grade by far.
Faculty members’ attitudes are kindly, too. In one national survey, 61 percent of students said that professors frequently treated them “like a colleague/peer,” while only 8 percent heard frequent “negative feedback about their academic work.”
When college is more about career than ideas, when paycheck matters more than wisdom, the role of professors changes.