Thursday, October 24, 2013

No grade: You're fired

If Donald Trump really wanted to do some good in the world, he'd quit running around after conspiracy fantasies and putting his worthless mug on television. Instead, he'd take some time to really show college students how their actions while earning an education really affect their future work life. I don't expect him to do it, because he has demonstrated that the only education he cares about are his phony entrepreneurial seminars. That is, he doesn't really care what YOU learn, as long he gets paid for failing to teach it.

To be honest, there are times when I wish I didn't have to put grades on papers and tests. I wish I could, once in a semester, take an assignment a student has had two weeks to complete, and instead of noting problems with clarity, development, and grammar, just give a short message like they will receive in the "real" world. Something like, "You're fired."

Perhaps, when a student fails several reading quizzes, I could write, "Advancement here is unlikely until you have mastered skills you have not spent your time here working to acquire."

When as student writes a paper that is clearly nowhere near what the assignment requires and justifies it with arguments like, "I'm not interested in that subject" or "I couldn't find anything in Bing on that topic" or "I only write on subjects I'm passionate about," I could perhaps respond with, "I wish you well with your future company" or "You have spent too much college time on personal matters. I am forced to go in another direction."

What about the student who plagiarizes and essay or cheats on a test? I'd love to write, "At this school, we value integrity, and your recent actions compromise that integrity. Therefore, we have decided to let you go as we consider possibly legal action."

Maybe these notes should be on school letterhead and printed pink paper.

Wouldn't it be nice to send chronically late students to a time management seminar? Am I
the only professor who wants require a workshop on interpersonal communication to students who blow off group work and then complain about the grades attached to their non-performance?

And while I'm ranting a little, if we have to keep learning the same dang thing in sexual harassment classes, why can't a few students learn about teacher harassment? I don't know an instructor who doesn't have to deal with a barrage of emails and conferences containing personal attacks, character assassinations, and threats every semester. Where is the re-education for these bullies?

In the supposed "real" world, much of education is still controlled by a bunch of mostly wealthy jerks who know next to nothing about how humans learn or what is actually good for students at any level. (I'm looking at you, Texas Legislature. Yes, I'm talking about you, boards of trustees pretty much everywhere.) These same jokers complain that colleges are filled with elitists who are brainwashing children and failing to teach them "real world" skills.

It is hard to convince students and voters and fans of reality t.v. that these people do violence to the very system they claim to serve. (Need help with that word, violence? Look it up!)  And the students who are just want to get through the class and get their credits? They need to ask themselves if they think their future employers (they are likely to have more than one) will accept the same attitude toward their businesses. They should ask if, should they reach a position of authority, how long they will tolerate such lethargy with those under them.

I am not at all saying that they need to be mindless robots who just obey orders without questioning anything. But why be the robot of a system or spirit of apathy? Why do they treat education like a cheeseburger, a quickly consumed and forgotten meal whose parts (like tomatoes or algebra) they can just toss away if they haven't acquired a taste for them?

Since when did I become, instead of a trained instructor, a line server, doling out unwanted vegetables to groups of people who would rather eat elsewhere, and are waiting for their parents to pick them up?

Maybe, instead of "You're fired," I should just say, "Grow up." But doing so might just get out of a job.

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