Do schools sometimes give students false expectations?

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  01 January 2010
Do schools sometimes give students false expectations?

Hey guys,

Well right now I'm in my senior year of college, as a 26-year old undergrad. For 3 and 1/2 years I couldn't afford tuition and a new computer, but this year the stars aligned and I'm finishing my degree. So during those 3 and 1/2 years all I was doing was animation, and making money doing it. I really got a feel for the industry, the urgency of a job, and the satisfaction of getting the job done in a professional and timely manner.

So upon returning to school, I'm talking with all these 22/23 year old kids who claim to be "Maya experts" because Professor (insert name here) told them so. But as soon as they start demonstrating their expertise, it amounts to them creating a poly sphere, using the stock sphere UV function and applying a crudely drawing Maya Paint basketball texture, replete with seams, and calling it a job well done. And for some reason the teacher loves it, high-fives all around, and I'm left scratching my head.

Back in 2006 I was attending the same university under a different professor who was guilty of rewarding sometimes crappy work. There was this one student in our class who couldn't model. Whenever he tried, there would be plenty of double faces, double CVs, weird normals, unmerged edges, and n-gons out the whazoo, but he would turn it in anyway. But there was this sense of "Let's not get mad. Let's just pat him on the back, say it was a job well done, tell him we have to clean his model up, and then just start from scratch" from the professor! We were essentially doing this guy's work for him, and he had no idea.

Fast forward to today. This week I ran into this kid in the computer lab up at the University. He graduated with his BA in Film/Animation in 2007. He immediately gathered up his stuff, threw together a demo reel and flew out to San Francisco, convinced that Pixar was waiting, and the poor guy got so many welcome mat rejections. The studios took one look at his stuff and came short of laughing him out of the interview. But here's the weird thing... he's somehow convinced that the sudden "No" responses were less attributed to his portfolio and more to the crappy economy. So he came back to his hometown and started hunting for low level graphic design jobs with a "Screw Pixar" mentality, and got the same response. The guy spent a lot of his savings on the job hunt, still unemployed, and ultimately decided hit up the old teacher for a job or referral. Finally, after years of receiving praise and high-fives from the professor, the professor came clean. He told him that he wasn't any good, and he should consider another field... something he should have told the kid before he graduated.

So now I ask, why do some of these animation teachers reward mediocrity? Is it because there aren't enough butts in the seats? Do they get paid more to be nice, than they do to be professional?

Obviously this isn't reflective of every school with an animation program, but I imagine there are lots of bo-diddly techs out there lauding praise on students who, in a word, suck.
"Lord, beer me strength."

Live-Action FLASH

Last edited by SantoAnderson : 01 January 2010 at 04:41 PM. Reason: Fixing some apostrophes.
  01 January 2010
This is normal nowadays , its a new type of business of an industry that exists only for 20 years , 99% of schools objective is to make ONLY money ( not giving actual usefull education ) out of clueless egocentric young people that just because they like to play games they think they can work on making art with 0 effort.. So the teacher mentality is "ok i have this job, i can either keep students here, giving them false hopes yet receive their money , or tell them they suck and must lear alot more than computer programs and risk their leaving" .
then when they "graduate" ( lol ) , they get out on the field spamming renowned studios with their half assed textured spheres and clogging email servers.

this is of course the type of person that you refer to , obviously there are individuals that understand its their own doing that they get hired or not and work really hard and get out of their bubble.

But this is just me
arp !

  01 January 2010
I think it comes down to talent vs. economics, the more talented a person usually the more expensive they can be. when it comes to schools this can be detrimental, but it's also not a universal thing as you suggest. from my experience with a school it was a situation were both happened. you had instructors who were hired because they were there and cheap and then you had others who came in well recommended, and on top of that you had a few come in because the boss had an ulterior motive, and the teaching position was more of just an excuse to have that person around.

at all levels there were people who really liked to help, people who really didn't know what they were doing, and people who might have known what they were doing and didn't give a dam.

usually a school who hires students into instructor positions are not only doing the students who come later a disservice, but also the student who is now an instructor because they hold that person back from going out and getting some real experience.

students out of school who get jobs at places like Pixar are few and far between and they really do have tho have not only a good reel, but an Amazing one. anyone thinking they can get a job out of school to a place like pixar really needs to reevaluate them selves, and possibly get their heads examined.
  01 January 2010
I have to chime in. This whole thing was not really the school's fault and much as it was the professor's he mislead the student when he should have helped him. I also think the fellow student(if this guy was not a hard head) should have critiqued him hard also and try to help him. The professor is to be blamed here he did the student a big disservice he lied to him and overall screwed with the kid's head to make him think he was good. The kid is a better person than me because when the teacher told me I was no good I would have snatched a knot in him. Last but no least it is the student's fault also he should have studied harder and ask fellow students for advice.
  01 January 2010
Originally Posted by Johny: then when they "graduate" ( lol ) , they get out on the field spamming renowned studios with their half assed textured spheres and clogging email servers.

I think this is the main reason I'm going back to school. Back when I was desperate for a salary, with a competent understanding of all things Maya and Adobe, I submitted resumes and portfolios to local businesses. Many of this companies wouldn't even bother looking at a resume unless you had a little BA next to your name. They were getting so many e-mail submissions from graduates and undergrads alike, that they had to make a decision to stop looking at people without degrees.

So here I am with what I think is a very competent portfolio. But the jobs go to people who can't draw, have no design understanding, and rudimentary technical skills, simply because they could afford school and bought a degree.
"Lord, beer me strength."

Live-Action FLASH
  01 January 2010
Originally Posted by dpendleton: I have to chime in. This whole thing was not really the school's fault and much as it was the professor's he mislead the student when he should have helped him. I also think the fellow student(if this guy was not a hard head) should have critiqued him hard also and try to help him. The professor is to be blamed here he did the student a big disservice he lied to him and overall screwed with the kid's head to make him think he was good. The kid is a better person than me because when the teacher told me I was no good I would have snatched a knot in him. Last but no least it is the student's fault also he should have studied harder and ask fellow students for advice.

This is another reason I left the school for a couple years, and recently returned. They fired the professor. So when I returned last semester I figured everything would be professional, and while it has improved, there is still that stale "The teacher says I don't suck, so I must be great" mentality with some of these students. I really do think the school is afraid if they start turning students away, they'll lose money.
"Lord, beer me strength."

Live-Action FLASH
  01 January 2010
"that they had to make a decision to stop looking at people without degrees."

So i wouldnt worry working for that type of studio , i mean its pretty obvious that people that come out of "schools" 99% of time have barely scratched the surface in terms of art and its production in a studio.
Having decided that just proves that the heads have no idea how things are , and i can count on some pretty bad working conditions.

Altho i have to say im only talking about game industry field, i have no professional knowledge regarding animation , technical artistry etc...

Edit : again, jobs going to people who cant draw etc, thats the people that give those jobs to them fault , i would never give a job to people who havent got a good portfolio only because they have a would be bad for me since i would have to cleanup alot of work , and or have delays on the project.
arp !

Last edited by Johny : 01 January 2010 at 05:03 PM.
  01 January 2010
Chances are that professor had pressure from the top not to fail students, and/or was tired of being complained about. When the student returned, he was finally able to tell him the truth as he was no longer a cash source.

There's a lot of BS behind the scenes at schools that I've gathered from talking to past teachers, program directors, and serving on a curriculum commitee. Many times the schools can't do what they need to do and it's really unfortunate.

With that said, the answer to your original question is yes. Sometimes schools give students false expectations. This happens in pretty much any career and both private and state schools.
Portfolio : Blog
  01 January 2010
What you are talking about is probably just a symptom of the larger problem with contemporary education. It's not just art school. Kids are brought up to believe that as long as they make their teachers happy and get good grades, then that must mean that they are learning the material and somehow better preparing themselves for the real world.
  01 January 2010
throwing your entire self belief into one persons opinion of you is bound to fail. this is a failure on a personal level that has nothing to do with a school. this student has examples of greatness all around and shouldve been able to see he wasnt good. As far as schools in general, they are a business and will try to convince as many students as possible they will succeed;its business. Very few schools i know of will kick you out or refuse admission if you arent capable. Many schools i know will pump kids out like a factory because the bottom line is profit. sad but true.
nietzsche - "God is dead"

God- "nietzsche is dead"
  01 January 2010
I discovered early on that I had a natural talent for (and interest in) computer programming. Back when I took my Computer Science degree, it was the first year that the University had such a program. (There were no PCs yet, and it would be a dozen years before they would be anything faintly more than a toy.)

I didn't learn much from the degree program, but I did get a job at the University's computer center which I kept for the next seven years (three years as a staff member).

It sounds like your experience was much the same. You learned on the job. And you obviously busted your even when attending class was not available to you.

Let's face it: computer work in all of its various manifestations (including computer graphics in its various disciplines) is a trade. You learn it by doing it. A lot. You establish a reputation, and that's what feeds you: sometimes not so good ... sometimes very well indeed.

Looking back (as best as I can stand it) at "me, then," I hesitate to condemn either that young student nor his teacher. I have been a college professor (adjunct faculty) and may soon be so again. It's very tough to deal with starry-eyed expectations, because you don't want to crush dreams (and the people with them). "Hope springs eternal," and sometimes that kid who is avoiding rattlesnakes in the (then...) deserts east of Scottsdale, Arizona turns out to be Steven Spielberg. The kid with a script for a space soap-opera and not enough money to produce it is named George. Lucas.

Maybe the professor was really telling the kid, "you don't want to try. How bad do you want it? Not bad enough. You've got to earn those chops; otherwise, fuhgeddaboudit." (And his reaction to those words, I surmise, was "to give up?" Too bad.)

Last edited by sundialsvc4 : 01 January 2010 at 06:26 PM.
  01 January 2010
Flipnap nailed it. A bigger problem than the format of education is the trend towards blaming others for your own problems. Here is my take on what went down.

1) Teacher is really screwing students by not being honest.
2) It's easier to say something is "fine" or good enough" rather than actually roll up your sleeves and teach.
3) Some teachers fear students, that pissing them off, their parents will call and complain or they will threaten to drop out. I can't believe that this happens but I know that it does. I have even heard of parents calling people's employers and telling them to give their kids a raise. It's pretty unreal.
4) If the student can't just look online at the quality of work that the industry is working at, and his/her work doesn't measure up to that quality, why would anyone hire you? Unless you are an intern, a job is not about teaching you how to do cg, you should already know by that phase. Even starting in a junior position.
5) If his work sucked, and he couldn't tell, he should have just asked people, he should have just posted on CGtalk, we would have straightened him right out. But he didn't seek proper criticism because on some level I'm sure he knew. It was easier to just continue living the lie. Spending his savings in pursuit of that is just stupid, I have little sympathy.

Every education, you get what you put in. Work your ass off, go above and beyond, seek out criticism and even the worst school can help you churn out a killer reel.

As for companies requiring a BA, I've never seen that in commercials, your work and your personality are the only things that mean a thing in my experience. Often they don't even read resumes, just look at your reel and give you a call, or not.

my 2 cents,
Chris Smallfield
Freelance VFX Supervisor / Artist, Berlin
  01 January 2010
This is a major problem at loads of colleges and universities! I saw people who did some really bad work that got good grades, and even people who asked for extra marks purely because they just missed a higher grade and it was granted!! Makes the hard work of the talented students worthless. Doesnt help anyone at all in the long run..

No matter how hard we tried, we couldnt get good, constructive, insightful criticism in many cases! The uni wouldnt fail anyone because it looks bad on their end of year results. Their aim isnt to have successful alumni, its to make sure that they get full classes (and therefore wallets) every year. Unis will actively spin and withold information to make sure they attract students. Its immoral and sad, but unfortunately the norm...

Nick Marshall
Head of Environments / Generalists
Double Negative :: Vancouver
  01 January 2010
I've encountered that sort of thing at my own school from time to time. There are a few instructors who just can't bring themselves to give a useful critique. Fortunately, there are many others who are very honest. The students, of course, are worse—nobody wants to say something bad about their classmates' work, so sometimes that means that nobody says anything at all.

I suppose it doesn't help that some students get very defensive and pouty when you are honest with them. Or even belligerent in a couple of cases I can recall. Still, I think that's their problem, not mine or the instructor's. In the majority of cases, I really think those students are the ones that need to get out into the world and see how it works before they go to school. I know I was like that: I was a lousy student the first time I tried to go to college.

Heck, I'm not a terrific student now, but at least now I know how bad my work is, and I'm trying to improve it.
Bryan Ray
  01 January 2010
back at school we had one animation teacher who just just brutal. It was the advanced storyboarding class and this guy was already a talented director, and he'd just tear into everyone. It was common for one or two people to fail the class out of a class of about 10. Everyone respected that class so much more than any of the others, and the difference in the effort put into the work really showed, even with the people who had no interest in storyboarding. The fact of the matter is, kids can take whatever you dish out if you treat them like adults.
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