Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Which Student Do I Hate Most? Which Day Is It?" Monte from Montgomery Meanders Through Myriad Malfunctionaries.

Today was Monday of the sixth week of classes. I had a student come to me who still didn't know that our class has a lab. What did he think when I'd announced each upcoming lab on Friday, and again on Monday, every week for the past five weeks? Of course, it's possible that today was the first time he'd attended a class. I couldn't help noticing that he had real trouble speaking in coherent sentences. It was all I could do to keep from saying, "I'm sorry, but I can't help you, because you're too stupid for anything that I can say to do any good."

Dante would no doubt say that students who lie are the worst, since lying is the accomplice to all other crimes. What's troubling is how MANY ways modern undergraduates can find to lie. The recent discussion of how a little compassion is a reasonable response might have been appropriate if it concerned mature adults, but undergraduates who lie about dead grandparents outnumber honest students by at least 10 to 1. What's especially distressing is how EASY they find it to lie, and how OBVIOUS their lies are. It's therefore easy to pick out the students with real dead grandparents and to refrain from requesting the usual documentation from them: students with real dead grandparents show signs of emotional disturbance.

Grossly immature students are bad, too. I lose all respect for any sniveling little twerp who tries to tattle on me, particularly if it's over something specifically mentioned in the syllabus, such as how I don't accept late homework or how I don't give make-up exams.

Students who try to do me harm are also bad, but now that I have tenure and am respected both as a teacher and as a researcher, there's not much they can do that can actually hurt me, short of a physical assault. Posting to that site-that-will-not-be-named doesn't hurt, because it doesn't have any more validity (or literacy) than what's written in the bathroom stalls. Also, as I get older, my hide gets thicker.

Being physically assaulted by students is no fun. Once when I was riding my bicycle home at night, some college boys drove up in two pickup trucks, and gleefully threw paper cups containing ice at the back of my head. They hit me both times, but it wasn't enough to knock me off my bike. I sure wish I'd been able to get their license plate numbers: it's good that I don't carry a gun, because I'd have used it. I seem to remember two of them from my big general-ed class, but with over 100 students per class, I couldn't pick them out in a police line-up. Physical assaults are (still) rare, though: lesser crimes, such as stupidity, lying, and immaturity can disturb me more, because a sustained assault of them can wear me down.

I hate to have to say this, but the students I hate the absolute most as a group are Liberal Studies majors. These are undergraduates in the education school, studying (ostensibly) to be K-12 teachers. I've never seen students less interested in learning---and indeed, more positively hostile toward it!---largely because of their inability to do so, and because of their insecurity and denial about it. Dealing with these people (I can hardly call it teaching them) is especially painful for me because my father was a high-school teacher, and he was a smart fellow. Thank goodness he didn't live to see what education has come to, although he did get a taste of it, when he didn't cope well with the Sixties. It's well documented that these ed-school wonders have the lowest SAT scores of any undergraduates, and that they graduate to the lowest-paying jobs. Worse, they're organized, and when they complain en masse to the ed school, it caves in to their every demand, no matter how ridiculous. These are the people with whom we trust our children. God help the good old U. S. of A.: if I ever have kids, they are going to private school!