Why I Quit My Third Masters Program

Erasmo Calzadilla

The following is the story of my quitting my third master’s program (the background on the two other fiascos are posted in My Three Masters and Giving up on a Second Masters).

I only hope that people don’t get the impression that I like leaving things half finished.

By my fifth year of teaching at the University of Applied Sciences and Technology (better known as InSTEC), I hardly resembled that initially shy teacher who froze when standing in front of the classroom. I’d gained such hubris that it was embarrassing.

I ended up becoming so relaxed that I began to teach what I actually believed was philosophy and not what was upheld by ideologists of the Cuban Communist Party. And then, when I had reached the clearest definition…well, you know what happened.

Despite that little problem, I’d gotten such pleasure from teaching that when a master’s program called something like “Pedagogy of University Teaching” was offered, I decided to enroll.

I didn’t take long for me to feel poorly about this third opportunity as well… We had classes on alternating Saturdays, where I soon discovered that I would have preferred a flogging than having to sit there for four hours listening to those professors blather on. Jesus Christ! – so boring, and pompous! But I don’t blame them. The problem was that I couldn’t take acting like a “normal student.”

On top of this, the majority of the professors taught their classes with a political line that ate away at my guts. I was sometimes able to articulate some timid protest, but the resonance was scant.

I even had to take a unit on “teaching values in the new Cuban university,” which I feigned in order to pass because I don’t believe I have the right to manipulate the “values” of people, if that’s something that can be done.

In short, I don’t know if that will be the last master’s degree attempt or if there will be yet other one. But the next time I’m tempted, I’m going to think it through a whole lot better.

My experience tells me that institutions (at least the Cubans ones that I’ve known) that organize master’s programs and other continuing education courses think more about complying with their bureaucratic obligations than they do about truly stimulating the growth of those who request their services. Many people know this but enroll anyway, simply to get the degree.

That’s why self-education continues to look like the best way to learn. So what do you think?

One thought on “Why I Quit My Third Masters Program

  • I think there is no one road to the New Jerusalem, Erasmo! Although I, too, have been bored by blathering, self-important professors, OTOH when a professor has something to say, and says it in an original or articulate manner, I don’t really mind being lectured to. My most satisfying educational experience, however, was at St. John’s College, in Annapolis, Maryland, where all the “professors” are “tutors,” and are not supposed to lecture, but just pose questions about the assigned readings (although this rule was sometimes broken), and the classes were in thre form of symposia, tutorial and preceptorial (i.e. larger lecture groups, smaller groups, with a broader reading, such as a whole novel or dialogue, or a more focucused reading assignment. At times, the “tutor” wasn’t even present, and the class members were on their own (and this was often better, since each student wasn’t “performing” for the tutor (grades were based on participation–but too often, much of the participation was forced, motivated by form, rather than substance). The curriculum at St. John’s is a “Great Books” one, where the works in each symposium, tutorial or preceptorial are designed to be taken from what the school considers to be the cannon of Western culture. Finally, I agree with you that it is life-long self-study which most broadens and expands our knowledge, but often it is the catalyst of a good professor who teaches you how to think about something, or where in the future to look for expanding your knowledge.

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