This is finals week, which means I am working my way through a large stack of research papers from my two upper division courses -- "Civil War and Reconstruction" and "U.S. History 1914 to 1945". I allow my students to select their topic in the belief that they will pick something they find fascinating and thus produce a better paper. There are always a few outstanding papers, a few really bad papers, and a majority of "Gentleman C" papers. At my age, and my level, I find it hard to understand why so many students seem to lack any serious interest in their own education. I thought my graduate studies at Northwestern were some of the greatest years of my life. I honestly loved every minute. My doctorate was both a challenge and an adventure, well worth all the time and effort. Even back in the Dark Ages, during my early undergraduate days, when being an academic meant smoking a pipe, growing a beard, and nodding knowingly even if you did not have a clue, I valued the importance of a good education. So, as I look out at my students today, I wonder what can I do to inspire them? What can I do to motivate them? What can I do to prepare them for the future?
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