Friday, June 19, 2009

Programming Patty Wonders If Monona Madison Is Doing A Favor For Her Students.

Madison from Monona has a good point in that professors shouldn't take it personally when students flake out. I agree with her on that one, because there will always be flaky students, so why beat yourself up over it? I can understand that Madison would rather focus on teaching writing than enforcing academic policy, but I don't think she's doing her students any favors with these policies:

  • Extensions - as many as you want, all you have to do is ask!
  • Excused absences - as many as you want, all you have to do is ask!
  • Due dates - always extended, so no need to heed them!
  • Excuses - always accepted, no matter how implausible!

Her assessment is: "I listen to the cock-and-bull story about sick grandmas and interpret them as "I screwed up, but I don’t want to just give you shit. Please let me work through this." And as a result, instead of handing me shit, they learn a goddamn lesson." What sort of lesson is that? That she's a total pushover? That attendance, due dates, and extensions are completely flexible? That ditching class is fine as long as you plan to do so in advance?

This is not true of the vast majority of college courses, nor is it true of real life outside of academia. Her students may find that other professors are not so generous with unlimited absences, extensions, flexible due dates, and lame excuses. Nor are most employers. There are very few jobs in which employees are given an unlimited amount of time to complete a task. Keeping to deadlines is part of learning to be a grown-up, as is showing up when you are supposed to and being forthright about your failures rather than lying and fabricating excuses. Wouldn't it be great if we all got second chances, do-overs, extensions, unlimited days off work, and complete acceptance of any bald-faced lie?

But if Madison's students do actually improve their writing skill after taking her course, then I guess all mollycoddling is ultimately helping them. Learning to write well is a worthwhile goal, but can't it be taught without rewarding students for ditching class, lying, making excuses, and weaseling out of due dates? The real-world rewards for this behaviour are losing your job, your credibility, your reputation, and the respect of your peers.