Monday, March 12, 2007

Observations from "Ornery Bastard," Our New Hero

Call me an ornery bastard. I am nearly forty. I spent some years in my profession before returning back to college to finish up my degree. It has been well worth the poverty-stricken nature of being a full-time student to get this piece of paper that says I know what the hell I am talking about. I can understand the concept of student as consumer and I think the analogy of professor as work-out instructor is fitting. If the consumer/student does not put in the necessary work then there will be no results. It is all well and good that you have membership in gym, but if you do not exert any effort then your results will show it.

When I took a Gen. Ed. requirement course of 200 humans, I closely monitored the breakdown of grades across the spectrum. I developed a friendly relationship with the professor and after the end of the semester we happened to talk in the parking lot about this same subject. He finally said to me, "I have "dumbed" it down as low as I can go; I can't simplify it anymore." I laughed and reassured him that what he was presenting was not difficult and anyone who simply made use of the resources available to them would be successful in the class. There was the fairly standard distribution of grades with most of the students in the C range, but it was tilted towards the bottom end of the scale. There were very few A's and B's.

I still can't understand why this material that was virtually the same as the material I had covered in high school twenty years earlier was so baffling to many of my fellow students. Lack of work on the presented material? Lack of a foundation to build upon? I still don't know.

Many students seem to labor under the delusion that receiving an A is their right and not something to achieve with hard work. That some students complain about reading 100 pages in a book is unfathomable. Most of the books I have been assigned have been reasonably informative and some are actually entertaining! There have been a few that were laborious reading, but very few. To dredge up an old slogan from my youth, "Reading is fundamental."

One particular professor in my area of study is beginning to have a hard time finding students who are willing to take his classes. He is developing a reputation as a "hard" professor who demands work from his students. I know that eventually they will have to take his classes to get the major of their choice, but it bothers me that they are afraid of the work required.

One thought that has been entering into my mind about this sense of entitlement on the part of today's students is that they are reflecting the behavior of their parents. The idea that no matter what service you are buying as a consumer, whoever is behind the counter has no brain and you must tell them exactly what you want. It is the service industry's representative's responsibility to fulfill their every wish, no matter how ridiculous. Is there any wonder why most of the tradesmen I know have signs that say something like, "You want it when?" or "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." "The squeaky wheel does not always get the grease."

To the students: "Go to the ant, ye sluggard!" (Look that up, if you have to.) Getting an education requires work, sacrifice and time. If you are unable to fulfill your part of the bargain, get out and make room for someone who is willing to do so. To the professors: I had fun and I will go forth knowing more than when I arrived. Keep up the good work and good luck to you all.