Yes, Stephen Carlton, a former MS student from the University of Nevada-Reno, sent me an email with 'MEC Was a Hard-Ass' in the subject line. Attached to the email was a syllabus from my 1983 course in Groundwater Hydraulics:
The email was sent to me, Sarah Raker, and Daniel Wendell, both UNR MS hydrogeologists. I had a delightful dinner with the three of them last Sunday night in Reno. Smart people all; each has had a successful career as a hydrogeologist (Sarah will claim she's more a geochemist) in California.
Four years ago (25 April 2010) Stephen sent me the answer key to the 'infamous' Problem Set 3 from that course. Here is what I wrote then:
A few posts ago I invoked the name of Stephen Carlton, friend and former student from our days at the University of Nevada-Reno. I mentioned something about a particularly brutal Problem Set #3 from my grraduate course Groundwater Hydraulics, Geology 783. I think it was one of the most difficult problem set I've ever given. The course was so focused on problem-solving using analytical mathematical methods that one engineering professor recommended to his graduate students that they not take the course because the problems took them too much time to complete.
Well, barely a few hours after I posted that Stephen sent me a scanned version of the answer key to that problem set - 17 handwritten pages exploring the glories and mysteries of well and aquifer hydraulics. Voila!
The class average - 167/200 (83.5%) is written on the key, along with the date: 4/28/83, almost 27 years ago to the day.
Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of the problem set itself so you may be hard-pressed to fathom the questions I asked.
So what was my point in posting the answer key then and the syllabus now? Here is what I wrote over four years ago:
I post the answer key because of a point I wish to make. My groundwater homework assignments became easier when I moved from UNR to UNM in 1989. Although I never taught a course quite like Geology 783 at UNM, I taught one similar. Problems I gave to my undergrads at UNR were given to my grads at UNM. And some of those proved too difficult. I concocted simpler problems for my UNM undergrads.
I was fond of saying that students at UNM were not as 'accepting' of such tough problems as were my UNR students, that they lacked the tenacity to stick with them and complained that they were too hard, or perhaps just weren't as bright. This latter claim is likely untrue; at UNR we had a dedicated program in hydrology and hydrogeology whereas at UNM we didn't. The UNR students were better prepared and expecting this kind of hydraulic brutality. But now I'm thinking that the problem was mine: 1) I was too lazy to teach them how to do these problems; 2) I didn't want to deal with their complaints and just made the course less rigorous ('dumbed down' the course); or 3) some combination of (1) and (2).
Funny how differently I see things through the magnifying glass of (old) age.
By the way, the thought that I was too hard on students at UNR has never crossed my mind.
And Steve, you did better in the course than you claim you did.
Driving back to Corvallis today, Great AWRA IWRM Conference. Another one in 2-3 years? Who knows?
"Differential equations are like deodorants; more people who don't use them should." - Stephen Wheatcraft