Monday, February 23, 2009

On Students and Professors

As I know schedules are busy, I would like to take just a moment of your time to talk about a two pronged issue which has recently come to my attention. This issue first came to my attention from a New York Times article on February 18, 2009. It was called, Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Dispute. Much of this can boil down to one word: entitlement

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines entitlement as “a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract”. I would like to highlight one particular word, which is ‘specified’. Now, this word states that for entitlement to be true, then one can feel entitled to something if they fulfill the specifications for that something. In this case, we are talking about grades. If one fulfills all of the requirements for a class at or above the level which the professor sets (keep in mind that the professor sets that level, not the student) then that student is entitled to the grade which the professor deems that level of work to be worth. The bare minimum is not enough if the professor has set that bar higher.

Some of the blame can fall back onto the public education system, and parents in general. In our efforts to do away with cruel punishments for children, some of us have swung back to the other extreme, which is to praise when no praise is required. This generation has grown up with people telling them that the bare minimum is all that is required, and that even if one tries they will get by. But the truth of the matter is that effort is no longer enough. When it comes to college, effort plays a part, but the quality of works also matters. If a student spends twenty hours on a paper, but the paper does not meet the expectations of the professor, then that student’s effort is entitled to the grade that best fits the quality of work.

Before people start yelling though, students do not have to throw out completely their sense of entitlement. When students enter a college, they have every right to feel they are entitled to a proper education. Professors that are disorganized, lazy or focus their teaching as if they were teaching to their peers rather then students, are no longer fulfilling the specifications that their students require. I am talking about the professor that comes in, lectures, gives stock tests, and leaves again without ever truly finding out what his students need to learn. I understand that in a large lecture class there is little time or room to do this, but even taking a moment before class to talk to students about what they are and are not understanding will give the professor a good idea of what they need to cover.

To illustrate my point, I wish to refer to an example of a teacher who felt it appropriate to email his students with a very large assignment (it was a review for a test) and asked them to complete it for the next day of class. Here people would normally say, ‘well, that is not fair, but doable.’ The clincher though, is that he did not send this email until 7:00pm, thus not even giving his students 24 hours to complete the homework.

A college education is a two pronged endeavor. The students must be willing (and able) to perform at the level demanded by the professor, and the professors must be willing to meet their students in a mindset that they are there to teach so the students can learn.

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