Idiocracy Report: Post Finals

I turned in final grades yesterday.  I always look forward to this point in the semester because it usually means I have 2-3 weeks off from thinking about this evil day job, and I can work on other things.  But I dread it too because invariably (particularly in spring semester), I get the phone calls.

Which phone calls? you ask.

The ones from the students who are dissatisfied with their grades and wish to a) argue their way to a better one, b) accuse me of prejudice, or c) claim my math was wrong.

Today’s phone call was all three.  God save me.

My class is very straight forward.  The quizzes and tests and exams are totally objective.  They either get the question right or they get it wrong.  The discussion question portion is worth 20% of their grade and if they answer the question correctly, show me that they can properly cite their sources, they get the full 10/10 each week.  As a reward to students who mastered the material through the semester, anyone who has earned 90% of the possible points before the final is exempt.  So in this particular class, that’s 423 points of a possible 470.  Anyone falling below that mark has to take the final, which is worth 100 points.  Ergo, anyone taking the final has their grade calculated out of 570 points.  This SHOULD make sense to anyone at the college level.

Sadly, it doesn’t.

First this student thought that 443 points after the final should be enough for an A since the people who had 423 BEFORE the final got an A.  Um. No. That’s a C.  And with the sanction handed down by the Honor Council for her plagiarism violation earlier this semester, it’s a D.

Then she basically said I was unfair, unreasonable, that my class was ridiculously hard and that she never stood a chance even before the plagiarism and that no one understood the assignments, and she’d really tried to get help and access to the library to do the assignments but couldn’t, and she is SUPPOSED to graduate and why can’t I change her grade.

Gee, because the other 29 people in the class, less the other plagiarist, managed to do their assignments on time, honestly, and to some extent correctly.  And because in three years of teaching this class, I have never had anyone have the alleged problems with the assignment that she has.

If graduation was so important to her, then maybe she should have considered, I don’t know, actually WORKING rather than expecting to just be HANDED a grade she didn’t earn.

This is a serious problem in our society.  All this nicety, get a ribbon for trying, average is okay, support for mediocrity is DESTROYING education.  Where is the drive and the reward for excellence?  Instead of patting everyone on the head and acting like half-assing is okay, have some effing expectations.  Make them work.  Make them EARN their grade.  Make them learn that the world is not about hand outs (or shouldn’t be–though it is to a certain segment of the population) and freebies.  It’s about HARD WORK and accountability for one’s actions.  You want to pass my class, then you damn well better show mastery of the material and actually WORK.  Don’t go around claiming you tried when you showed no improvement and never asked anyone for help.

That particularly drives me insane.  The people most in need of help won’t ask for it, and then when they get the smack down at the end of the semester, they claim it’s our fault because we didn’t spoon feed them.

THIS IS COLLEGE.

And if this kind of trend isn’t reversed, it’s going to continue to devalue education even more than it already has been, which is a tragic state of affairs in a country where most of the low end jobs have been shipped out of the country, leaving a huge segment of the population who are ill-suited to the rigors of a traditional college education without acceptable jobs to apply for.  Then the educational institutions are lowering entrance requirements because they need the tuition dollars, whether these folks are capable of performing at an adequate level or not.

It drives me crazy.

Idiocracy.  It’s happening now.

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11 comments

  1. Idiocracy has been here for a very long time. When my husband was teaching in a community college, way back when, he got so tired of the complainers that he tried a new tack. Close to the beginning of each term, he announced that anyone who wanted an A could come up, right in front of the class, and ask for it. But once they had it, they were out of the class, permanently. Very few took him up on the offer, but he figured those were the ones who would have given him the most trouble, so everybody was happy.

  2. Maybe I’m just naive, but when I was in college (95-99) I wouldn’t have dared argue with a prof over a grade. I knew damned well when things were my fault. But this generation, this generation of blue-ribbon-for-trying and instant gratification via technology, is different. They’re taught things should come easily to them. I don’t envy you, Kait. Bless you for not losing your temper on them.

    1. This is a direct symptom of No Child Left Behind, where everyone gets left behind and the only benchmark is mediocrity. God forbid they acknowledge reality–that not everyone is similarly capable and some people are smarter than others. Instead of accepting that and tailoring education so that everyone gets focused on at THEIR LEVEL and learns as much and as efficiently as they are capable, no one learns anything and simply expects to be handed everything.

    2. Stacy, it isn’t just this generation. My husband’s teaching career was more than thirty years ago and he faced the same arguments, even tears, because there were always students who thought they were entitled to grades they hadn’t worked for. Human laziness and sense of entitlement are nothing new. What does seem to be new is that teachers are increasingly encouraged to go along with it, all in the name of student self-esteem, and school rankings. Mass education is a business, and schools can’t afford to have large numbers of students not meeting the testing standards or failing altogether.

      1. Agree that this has been going on, maybe always, actually. I, too, have had the tears, the anger, the plagiarism; most often it was showing up and turning in an assignment means an ‘A’. No. I taught writing and stopped teaching in 2001, mainly because of the plagiarism, which made me crazy.

        I admire you, Kait, for standing by your standards.The majority of your students know how lucky they are and the rest live lives as squeaky wheels.

        Karen

  3. Some kids need to be told to spend a few years working or in the military before they start thinking about going to college. They might have the smarts, but they lack the maturity that college requires. (Come to think of it, that describes most kids.) Too many come in with the mindset that they can bluff and BS their way through like they did in high school, and college simply isn’t like that.

  4. I teach at a community college (composition courses and intro to literature courses) and I constantly hear the whining of students who want class notes typed out and handed to them, instead of them having to actually pick up a pen and take notes. Or complain about the quizzes I give on the assigned readings (even though I do give an extra credit question on each one!) And when I assigned the 8 page research paper in March, I still had three students come to me on the due date (this past Monday) and tell me I didn’t get give them enough time. *shakes head* So many students want, no expect, an A for just showing up to class and not having to do the actual work. It’s all so sad and frustrating.

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