The English Department Responds to Alex Davis

I recently read Alex Davis’ interpretation of UT as a fancy day care center and felt a couple of knee-jerk responses. But after my initial annoyance with Davis’ reduction of the classroom to a childcare facility, I hit upon some more rational responses.

First, Davis makes a critical connection that he doesn’t seem to realize he’s done (perhaps it’s a result of all those independent-study hours he’s putting in at the library. God knows he’s not learning anything from his peers or, gasp, his professors). In equating UT with a daycare, he’s drawing a line between one of our fundamental principles in our educational model that daycares do, in fact, share with us: the idea of a learning community.

Daycares have as a fact of their being the purpose of fostering social, intellectual, and citizenship skills in their little charges. In short, they care about the children they supervise.

While some schools may have an information in-information out model that’s designed to produce high standardized test scores, daycares are not schools. They’re not even preschools. They exist to provide care.

That is, to help the little monsters that all humans are at first become socialized people capable of functioning in that mythological “real world” we hear so much about in the halls of UT.

That is why children who go to some sort of day care before entering kindergarten do better-because their teachers don’t have to spend all year reminding them not to pull Suzy’s hair or to interrupt when Teacher is talking.

The University of Tampa, like a daycare, believes in the “human touch” in education (that’s a quote from one of our own President Vaughn’s speeches).

UT believes in the learning community, in the inherent value of working with and among other people. Therefore, should you choose to attend the university of Tampa (and, Alex, you have. No one is forcing you to stay), you are choosing a particular educational model.

There are others, to be sure. You can certainly go to a school and sit (or not) in a classroom with 800 of your peers and listen to lectures. Or, you can “attend” one of the many online colleges and complete your degree there. Their philosophies are different than ours.

No one who chooses a college thoughtfully can claim not to know that this is UT’s mission. After all, it’s right there on the website for all to see.

“The University is committed to the development of each student to become a productive and responsible citizen. . . . Classes are conducted in personalized settings in which learning is enhanced through application” (

Of course, if you came to UT for the weather, the beer, or the high female-to-male ratio, you weren’t really thinking about your education, were you?

Second, and this is important, attendance policies provide faculty with systems of evaluation for the intangibles.

By keeping records of attendance, I am able to reward those who’ve stuck it out all semester and played well with others and done their best-my 10% participation policy (which is not an attendance policy per se) means that a hardworking, participatory, attentive (please look up the word “attend” in the dictionary) student who is on the A/AB border, will end up with that A.

And that, folks, is the way the real world works. People who play well with others get the best cubicles.

I am not one to give multiple-choice tests. I am not one to give tests at all, really-I’m one who hopes to serve more or less as Dante’s guide did-to point the way for students to find their own path to learning.

Education is not a commodity. Those who are best at what they do are thinkers, not paper-seekers.

Finally, the reason I am at UT is because it does value learning communities. That it cares about the ideas valued by humanists. That it aims to foster, for those who didn’t get it in daycare, the concept of personal responsibility.

Go ahead. Blow off work in that “real world.” See where it gets you.

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