Friday, September 14, 2007

A Self Professed Raggedy-Ass Student Sends In His Apology, Or His Condemnation - It's Hard to Tell For Sure.

Okay, let me admit that I was one of those students who emailed professors asking if they could bump up my grade by one mark so that I could reach the next GPA bracket. No, I didn't raise any hackles during the course. I studied hard, I did my work. I might have missed more than a few classes but I'll get to that later.

Frankly, I never cared about the grade. Not at all. I really attended classes to learn and, in most of your classes, I did. I learned things that truly changed my outlook on the world -- like that course on the politics of third world countries that shattered so many of my ignorant preconceptions; or that course that made me appreciate the human body more -- like that fantastic course in anatomy and histology.
In some of them -- neoconservative political theory -- I didn't get what I expected in terms of a learning experience but I did my best to engage your lackluster texts and your esoteric, narrow-minded and boneheaded focus. In any case, I learned a lot, and regardless of whether I enjoyed or hated the process I damn well engaged with it to the best of my ability.

But there's this little problem I have. My parents. And my parents want me to get into medical/law/other professional school. And for that, I need a godforsaken GPA of X.XX. It doesn't matter that my overall percentage is fantastic, it doesn't matter that I tried hard and truly wanted to learn, it doesn't matter that I'm more involved in student life and in the university community than some socially-awkward geek sitting in a lab, it doesn't matter that I'm in the 99th percentile of the MCAT/LSAT/etc. None of that matters because my GPA is in the dumps. And because of that my parents will kill me or disown me or something like that.

I didn't want to email you to grub for grades. Nope, not at all. I sat there for several hours mulling over how to word my e-mail requesting a meeting to discuss my grades because I didn't want you to think that that's what mattered. When you replied saying there was nothing you could do, I was actually apathetic because I didn't care about my GPA -- but terrified because of what my parents would do. And that, by the way, is part of the reason why I missed so many of your classes -- because my life at home is remarkably messed up.

But in any case, my email made you think I was just another grade-grubbing hack. And, indeed, when they looked at my grades, my parents did precisely what I expected them to do. And more than the anger, it's hard to deal with the disappointment. But I reckon that most of you don't understand that. Because most of you, in fact, are quite privileged. Your class, your race, your ethnicity, your culture, all of that screams to me that you're privileged and that you wouldn't, not really, understand what on earth I, and several other students like me, are going through.

So at the end of the day, you'll wail about students who only want grades and nothing but grades and who treat university like a factory, but you'll ignore the social, economic and political conditions -- starting with the way your university is structured (but the governance of which you try to avoid like the plague) -- that make this sad phenomenon a reality. And, believe it or not, some of that kind of analysis is precisely what I learned to do because of, or in spite of, your classes. So, really, practice what you preach.