Rip-Off

According to the students, the less they were taught, the better. But I knew better. And I had been on the receiving end of some of these half-taught students. One of my colleagues at a large community college in California had confessed that he passed any student who would sit through his course. With no work to grade them, he simply gave them all C’s. He was not the only one, I realized.

When I had struggled with a student whose grammar was shockingly poor and who could not form a decent paragraph or essay, I sometimes wondered if they had simply tested well on the eligibility exam or if an unwitting colleague had passed them on to me.

And what did the students get out of this? —Shari WilsonRip-Off (Inside Higher Ed)

An angry part-time teacher launches a heart-felt discussion. I can’t say I’ve ever come across anything as bad as the examples in this essay. Students aren’t all this bad, and teachers aren’t all this jaded. But I can understand her emotional reaction.

While I wish all students would find the pleasure and personal satisfaction of learning to be sufficient motivation for them to do the work that they need to do, athletes (who are singled out in this essay) have a support network that other students don’t have. In my experience, that support network encourages students not to flunk, but I know several athletes who could get better grades if they did more work, but who choose not to. And I don’t simply mean skipping class in order to play games… speaking as a teacher, I find that frustrating, but manageable. I’m talking about not turning in rough drafts, not taking revision opportunities seriously, etc. And students may have all kinds of obligations other than sports (including jobs, family, health) that might keep them from doing their best. (I worked through my own feelings about athletics in an essay, “Football Slouches Toward a Former Women’s University“.)

It’s hard to resist the urge to sit around like the men in the Monty Python sketch, telling tall tales about how hard I had it when I was young, but I certainly teach fewer novels and more short stories than I myself was taught.

And I teach some courses that I never took as a student. In the 80s, only CS majors would be talking about interface design, but my “Writing for the Internet” students get a good dose of it. So it’s hard to make any kind of direct comparison.

Still, the pressure is there, but it’s not just athletes — it’s the whole entitlement culture. They’ve paid their tuition, so my job is to spoon-feed them exactly what they are supposed to get out of every assigned reading, and test them on whether they can memorize the “right” answers.

Sorry, but that’s not why I became a college teacher.

Since I have some job security, I respect the guts (or recklessness?) of an adjunct willing to bring up this topic in this forum.