Theodore R. Griffiths
If there is one thing that I have noticed since starting my last semester at Millersville University, it is that my class sizes have grown larger each year I have been here, which has accompanied a drop in useful information year over year since I have begun college.
If someone was to ask me what I have learned in my five courses this semester, three of which are 400-level courses, I would say that I learned how to write a thesis and I realized that I hate Jack Kerouac and anyone who actually enjoys his incomprehensible nonsense that some call “literature.”
Learning how to write my thesis was a one-on-one practice with my advisor, and it has proved to be the most rewarding thing I have learned since attending Millersville University.
Learning that I hated Jack Kerouac was a result of 40-plus 20-somethings comparing his block of plotless text to “Into the Wild,” while living out their childish dreams of running away all over again in their head.
Those example are two extremes, and I don’t believe that every student should have one-on-one courses with professors (unless they are writing a thesis), but I do believe that a class size over 15, especially in the English department, is irresponsible. It recreates the environment of a lecture hall, and instead of useful discussion, something essential to a great English course, it devolves into a game of “who is brave enough to speak for this entire class 40-plus people and waste the rest of our time?”
I experienced a great thing this past summer when I finally took my required speech course. As someone who stutters, there was no possible way that I could survive in a 40 person class or larger, especially if I would be required to speak in front of them. Instead, I was given the opportunity to take this course with only 13 other students, allowing me to become comfortable with every person in the class and provoking better discussion than I have had in nearly all of my English classes.
We found ways to bond in a class that is terrifying for many people, and that is because with only 15 people in the room, including the professor, it is almost impossible to be forgotten or left out. No one person dominates discussions, simply because everyone is comfortable speaking in a class that small. This means that instead of one or two extremely loud people dominating all of my insanely large English classes, we were able to have constructive discussion that involved every single student.
I find myself, an extremely opinionated person (if you couldn’t tell by my title), sitting in the back of almost all of English classes having discussions with myself inside my head, while other students misdiagnose Stanley from “A Streetcar Named Desire” with PTSD because they don’t understand psychology. Sure, I could stop them and say, “Hey, that is completely wrong, if he had PTSD he would not be making loud noises and smashing things, he would be afraid of those actions,” but that would require me to engage 40-plus people, and I refuse to risk stuttering to satisfy the English-elite and their inevitable laughter.
As I keep pumping money into this school and expecting a quality education, I continually feel shafted, mainly because I can’t figure out where my money is going. The remodeled library is still unfinished, the school ran out or is almost out of money for the dorms (according to some sources), and the size of my English classes are constantly growing.
Millersville can build all the new dorms they want. They can slap all of the new titles on the same old libraries, but what about the education? Dorms house more students, and libraries allow those students to access materials to write papers. How much does any of that matter when a school can’t even provide it’s students with a quality learning environment and a 400-level English course with less than 40 students in it?
Personally, I cannot learn in a class that crowded. It is like trying to write a research paper at a party. There is so much happening around me, and as per usual with English majors, so much snickering and sneering, that I can barely focus on the teacher or the topic at hand.
If Millersville University ever expects to rise above the ranks of “a pretty good school, considering the fact that it’s cheap,” then they should reevaluate the way they spend their money. A growing faculty is necessary for a growing student body, and anything less will result in utter failure.