Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No parsimony in the classroom

Sometimes I come away from teaching pumped up about teaching college students. So much potential with these young minds.

Other times I'm rather discouraged, and now is one of those times. I just taught the first class of summer school, and as I was lecturing I used a word that produced a few quizzical looks. So, I stopped and explained it, and still... Finally, I asked how many student had known what the word meant? Out of 21 students, only one did, and she's attends a private college (and is just picking up an extra class over the summer).

That esoteric word: parsimony.

14 comments:

André said...

I would not have known what it meant. I looked it up, though, and now I know.

S.S.Stone said...

Did they even try guessing at the meaning? It would be interesting to hear what they thought it meant.

Sad to say ,students coming from private education have a better foundation than most others...lower student to teacher ratio makes a big difference.

Brad Wright said...

I should have had them guess...

I thought briefly about telling them that parsimony is the green stuff served on the side of meals (instead of parsley).

But... if Andre didn't know what it means, maybe its a more specialized word than I had thought.

Knumb said...

Well, of course, it's the middle of summer.

Why would people be thinking about being married by Parson Brown?

...

.......

You see, marriage is a ceremony. Parson... Pars-cemony.

.....

(ribbet)(chirp)

Dan Myers said...

From reading one of our journals, I'd say most PhD's don't have a clue what it means either!

I was writing a book review a couple years ago and looking for a real zinger to end the review and decided on "Parsimony is dead." It's good to see the general student body is recognizing my contribution!

S.S.Stone said...

Geee, I thought it was part of the "parsnip" family or a new word for "alimony" ;)
I'm feeling rather brilliant this morning ( for a nice change since I don't always understand your lovely charts/percentage tables*smile* - I did know what it meant ;)

Ben said...

I refuse to comment on the grounds that I may incriminate myself.

Brad Wright said...

John, the (ribbet)(chirp) is really funny! Just add (dry cough), and you my classes reaction to one of my jokes yesterday.

Dan, I hadn't thought about it, but I think you're right that parsimony is in short supply in our profession.

Sarah, I hadn't thought about the link to alimony... maybe a brief alimony agreement?

Ben, a very parsimonious refusal!

S.S.Stone said...

parsimonious alimony...cheap, cheap cheap or is that "chirp"?

Brad Wright said...

:-)

Anonymous said...

Parsimony: them thar orange puckery fruits.

Jay Livingston said...

One week many years ago, I asked students to keep a list when they read the assigned chapter -- words they didn't know, and words they thought they knew but weren't sure.
Nothing like a dose of reality to change expectations.

After that, whenever I caught myself using a word like "parsimony" or "austere" or anything I thought would not be in their vocabulary, I repeated the idea in a paraphrase using the most common words I could think of.


Now I'm no longer surprised by what students don't know -- vocabulary, history, arithmetic, geography, etc.

What I also find interesting is that "what students don't know" is a favorite topic among professors. For some reason, we love to sit around and tell these stories.

Brad Wright said...

Funny about the fruit...

I might try a journal about not understanding... that could be useful.

You're right about student-stories. Mine tend toward funny things they say or do, but this thing struck me because it made me wonder how effectively I could teach if I have such a different vocabulary. Though, maybe using a different vocabulary is part of teaching...

S.S.Stone said...

wonderful how one little word can get this much attention!