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My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student Paperback – July 25, 2006
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"My Freshman Year... is an insightful, riveting look at college life and American values." —The Boston Globe
Top Customer Reviews
At the same time, I couldn't stop reading. Few university press books combine academic discourse with readability as well as this one does. I was a college professor myself for 20+ years, but in the business school. And I didn't find a single surprise -- except, was Nathan really unaware of her students as much as she claims?
Several years ago, I remember a summer school student complaining, "You give too much work! Who has time for this? I have a wedding in my family and my folk dance lessons..."
Nathan's glorifies international students, who criticize Americans for shallow friendship and lightweight classes. But I taught international MBA students who said calmly, "We won't be in class next week. We're going sightseeing. It would be a shame to come all this way and then not see [a local attraction]." And some international students have less than ideal motivations -- not to mention disregard of female professors.
Nathan bemoans the lack of student participation. In the business school, we were encouraged to motivate students. I rarely had trouble getting students to participate: discussion groups, in-class activities and more.
But she's right about so many elements of student culture. I returned for my PhD when I was in my 30's (deemed the "older woman" by my professors - I wish I were kidding). So in a way I experienced some of her frustrations, including time management, conflicts, inexorable deadlines and arbitrary administrative policies.Read more ›
So, I am frankly astounded at many of the reviews I have here read, which center not on the content of the book, but on how Nathan got her information--by posing as a freshman to make students feel comfortable around her. As a physical scientist, I am dumbstruck that some social scientists and others think this approach was somehow "unethical." Nathan went to great lengths to avoid reporting things that might be construed to be improper, didn't report actual names, certainly was not "spying" (the intent to do harm or gain advantage over those in the dark), and even became friends with students for whom she obviously had great affection and respect.
I intuitively know that if Nathan's freshmen had been aware that they were being observed, they'd have behaved quite differently.Read more ›
The traditional explanations by college profesors run along these lines:
(1) It's all the fault of K-12 teachers and administrators;
(2) The new generation is just no good.
This book looks at the passage of today's college students from consumerism (as entering freshmen) to careerism (as graduating seniors), and observes that this particularly modern transition never quite passes through the life of the mind. There are also discussions of conformity, community and diversity, and the views of Americam students given by foreign-exchange students. We find that pairing hard and easy classes, and grouping classes into two or three days a week, are perfectly rational time-management techniques, and don't pose particular problems once the students master their use.
If you're a college professor you'll find this book filled with insights about your students, and why they do what they do.
Taking the pseudonym "Rebekah Nathan" and calling the school "AnyU" to protect those she studied, Small compiled her findings into a book. (According to an article in the New York Times, a New York Sun reporter revealed her true identity last year.)
"My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student" is no dry-as-dust study, but rather an insightful and delightful portrait of ordinary student life. My copy is a hardback published by Cornell University Press ($24) but the book is also now in paperback ($14) from Penguin.
Part of Small's story is about her own ethical concerns over how to handle things told to her by students who think she is (just) a fellow student. She decided not to lie; yet she needed to reveal her true purpose only a few times.
Those around her in the dorms were just not that interested in what a 50-plus student was doing at the school. She was a writer, too, she said, and was going to write about student life.
True enough, and that seemed to suffice. Small determined that her book would not contain descriptions of sexual or drinking practices, and her comments on the group discussions in her sexuality class are kept general since they were confidential.
There is nothing lurid here.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My Freshman Year was definitely an interesting read. As a college student myself (going into my senior year), I can definitely appreciate her insights and they helped me make sense... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
While there is some good information in this book it is buried among a lot of descriptive research. It was more a textbook than an informative read.Published 6 months ago by Sherry B
The author writes in an almost high-and-mighty voice and her observations are not groundbreaking. Instead of reading this, just talk to a college student and you'll get the same or... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
Book came on time and definetely not a regret purchasing for my Writing class.Published 11 months ago by Bianca'sJustSaying
I came to this book as a college instructor of first-year students and wanted to see what observations "Rebekah Nathan" had made that might surprise me or change my... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Nathan Webster
I'm not sure what to make of this book - or to be more specific, I don't know what to do about it. I appreciate the premise and the reporting in it. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Mark Youngkin