BALLS

Posted in Rants on May 8th, 2012 by Ed

It's finals week, which can only mean one thing: dozens of students at a university with none-too-stringent admissions standards, a "the customer is always right" attitude toward student evaluation, and staggering grade inflation whining, pleading, or negotiating for higher grades. What follows is an actual email from a 19 year old freshman in a mandatory Intro American Government course. The last two sentences in particular are amazing (emphasis mine).

I received a (redacted grade) in your class. My grade is an error because of discriminatory inconsistencies in requirements between the separate breakout sessions. I was in (redacted)'s breakout session and though he was a great teacher, the work he assigned differed greatly from other breakout sessions. There were additional tasks assigned to my class that were inconsistent with the level of effort versus other classes. For example one TAs breakout session was based solely on attendance; I went to every breakout session, therefore i would have received a 100% in that class. If i was graded according to the other break out sessions i would have received a 100%. I expect my breakout session grade to be changed to 100%, due to the fact that i feel my grade my discriminatory. This grade is an error, and i expect this error to be corrected because of the points above, and due to inconsistent requirements.

A couple things.

First, the student did not bother to note that if I agreed to her request and changed the grade to 100, it would not make enough of a difference to raise her course grade. Right off the bat this entire exercise is a moot point, but I suppose Special Princess never learned how to do math.

Second, all grades from discussion sections are adjusted so that there are no discrepancies among different teaching assistants, each of whom has discretion over his or her own sections.

Third, nice attitude you've got there, asshead. In my response, I politely suggested that she reconsider her tone, phrasing, and attitude of entitlement when making such requests in the future. Frankly I'm just proud of myself for not finding her and hitting her over the head with a cast iron frying pan, cartoon-style.

I haven't been teaching long enough to say whether this type of thing is becoming more or less common. One thing is for certain, though; it happens a lot. Regularly, even. I read or hear things like this all the time and my mind goes to Joe Pesci in Raging Bull: Where do you get the balls big enough to ask me that?

By now we're all used to students who think that showing up entitles them to an A and every time they pester me I try to imagine what sort of sequence of events and influences would need to come together to make someone a douchebag of this magnitude. This is a truly awful human being, and she will make your life unpleasant eventually. She'll flip out, yell at the manager, and leave a 5-cent tip because you forgot her ranch dressing. She'll wait until you install her new carpeting and then refuse to pay for it because the color isn't right. She'll call tech support and scream at you because she's too stupid to figure out how to use her cell phone. She'll spend the greater part of what will only loosely be labeled "adulthood" suing or threatening to sue people – neighbors, employers, employees, family members, and random strangers. She will talk on her phone in movie theaters, cut you off in traffic, and fight with the Little League coach if Dakota and McKenzie don't play enough.

The scary part is that the student is taking this approach, most likely, because it has worked before. This is how some of these kids learn to get through life – their options are to attempt to solve the problem with money or flirting or, failing that, to threaten to have Daddy hire a lawyer. The world today makes more sense if you picture the adult version of this student on the other end of the phone the next time you try to resolve a problem.

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