PUNTING

Everyone loves a good Take This Job and Shove It story, and the collective catharsis we feel when reading about a flight attendant getting fed up, activating the emergency slide, and walking away with both middle fingers skyward is palpable. That could be me someday, we think. Maybe one day I will have the balls…because god knows I feel like doing this approximately every third day.

It was not difficult to get my attention, in that spirit, with the story of one Irwin Horwitz. A professor at a branch campus of Texas A&M University in Galveston, Horwitz got so fed up with a spectacularly bad class that he sent them an email informing them that he is walking away and they are all receiving an F. To wit:

"Since teaching this course, I have caught and seen cheating, been told to 'chill out,' 'get out of my space,' 'go back and teach,' [been] called a 'fucking moron' to my face, [had] one student cheat by signing in for another, one student not showing up but claiming they did, listened to many hurtful and untrue rumors about myself and others, been caught between fights between students."

Horwitz said he would fail every single student. "None of you, in my opinion, given the behavior in this class, deserve to pass, or graduate to become an Aggie, as you do not in any way embody the honor that the university holds graduates should have within their personal character. It is thus for these reasons why I am officially walking away from this course. I am frankly and completely disgusted. You all lack the honor and maturity to live up to the standards that Texas A&M holds, and the competence and/or desire to do the quality work necessary to pass the course just on a grade level…I will no longer be teaching the course, and all are being awarded a failing grade."

This is the waking fantasy of every teacher or professor who has dealt with a miserable class, the educational equivalent of dumping a plate of food on an asshole diner and walking out of the restaurant straight to the nearest bar. Obviously the university administration will engineer some outcome other than automatic failing grades for the students enrolled in the course, and Horwitz is likely to be (and no doubt expects to be) disciplined. Even if tenured, non-performance is one of the few open-and-shut ways that a faculty member can be fired for cause. My guess is he will be punished short of that, if for no reason other than the administration's desperation to keep him from telling the world everything he knows about just how dog shit the university and its students are.

I'm sure there are some good students at the Texas A&M-Galvestons of the world, but when a university isn't even in the top 25 or 30 in the pecking order of public institutions in a state there is an outstanding chance that phrases like "feeder" and "open enrollment" and "of last resort" are applied and not without justification. This is to say that I have taught at three different four-year universities and I am extremely privileged to have taught at three universities much closer to the top of the pile than the bottom. It's not like I taught at Stanford or Oxford, but all have been good, selective (on paper) institutions that generally limited the pool of students to those who might reasonably be expected to succeed in college if they care to do so. I cannot imagine how challenging it must be to teach at a place like Dr. Horwitz teaches; I say that with both admiration and elitism. I am glad I don't teach at such a place, because it sounds horrible in every way that the job could be horrible. Yes, there are good students there. They are massively outnumbered.

Bearing in mind that I have taught exclusively at Good Schools, in some cases expensive and in all cases prestigious, it is shocking to many people to hear my tales of some of the students I have dealt with. I've had students with behavioral problems so severe that they could not live or function without assistance. I've had two students I know for a fact could not read, and several others that I've suspected. I've had students with scores like 15 on the ACT or the 25th percentile of the SAT, scores that suggest either that the exam taker filled out the answers at random or lacks the most fundamental high school level academic skills.

And here's the part of Horwitz's story that will get no attention but is truly beautiful: "The same day Horwitz sent a similar email to the senior administrators of the university telling them what he had done, and predicting (correctly) that students would protest and claim he was being unfair. The students are "your problem now," Horwitz wrote."

That is his point. This isn't about the students; it's about the administrators who decided that these were college students. On the (thankfully limited) instances that I have had to deal with students like those I described just above, my urge has not been in any way to punish the student. It has been to take the student gently by the hand, walk down to the Dean of Admissions or whichever apparatchik was responsible for admitting him, and announce, "You let him in here, you fucking deal with him." It is not about lashing out at students but about returning the problems dumped into our laps to the responsible party. Horwitz has effectively made his problem the administration's problem, and I understand that impulse completely. Because the administrative mindset is to take anyone who can pay the tuition or qualify for Federal loans/grants, even students that they know beyond any shadow of doubt cannot succeed in college. Once that financial transaction takes place, the admissions folks are happy and that millstone of a student now becomes the faculty's collective problem.

It is a very clear and persistent case of "Oh well, I won't have to deal with it!" and "You're someone else's problem now!" frosted with a nauseating layer of pap about how we're doing something noble because doesn't every student deserve a chance? Yes, educational opportunities should exist for everyone. But I am not a high school Special Education teacher. I am neither trained nor prepared to deal with students who literally cannot stop themselves from singing and throwing things throughout class. I am not prepared to teach a college course that both challenges the best students and accommodates those who can barely read. That is why universities are not one size fits all, why Harvard accepts people who have a fighting chance at succeeding at Harvard and rejects those who probably (although not definitely) do not. At a place like TAMU-Galveston, where the school by design and necessity accepts essentially anyone who submits an application, the task given to professors there is unrealistic and unethical at best, professionally negligent at worst.

So, congratulations to Dr. Horwitz. Not because this stunt will work or because he Showed Those Darn Kids. The dynamic in which clueless MBA types walled off from student contact and from reality make decisions without having to deal with the consequences needs to be dismantled. If the admissions process is going to involve no standards beyond the ability to pay, then the faculty (and the students who are actually hoping to learn something) should not bear the entire burden of dealing with what follows.

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56 Responses to “PUNTING”

  1. US in the UK Says:

    Good for him. I am tenured in the UK (which is stupidly easy) but recently had the one -too-many-grains of administrative sand land on the wrong side of the scale and quit.

    HE in the UK is nosediving in the direction Ed points out above (except the usuals – Oxford, UCL, LSE) in that it is completely handing over the wheel to managerial admin types. Driven largely by the fact that funding for universities is in large part driven by student satisfaction surveys (the National Student Survey), you can imagine what the geniuses in the decision-making payscales have decided is the gold standard. hint: it ain't research. It is full on student appreciation all day every day.

    Don't know what I am going to do next but I do not want to hang on as this ship tips into the cold sea.

  2. Bess Bibbentucker Says:

    In the comments after the linked article, it was noted that TAMU-Galveston is sort of a satellite campus of the main A & M outfit in College Station, TX. They say 'a sort-of' satellite, because it has its own president, a full set of deans & a whole separate hierarchy of administrators. Somehow I suspect that once the tuition is paid, the students are just a nuisance.

  3. Matt Says:

    He complained that the students were disrespectful, disruptive and didn't want to do any work. He must have forgotten he was teaching a MANAGEMENT class, where all of those are prerequisites. ;)

  4. Anonymouse Says:

    Both my kids took classes at the community college while still in high school. One's in grad school right now, the other is finishing up at a 4-year university. Before my oldest could drive, I was stuck sitting in the lobby waiting for the hour-long class to end, and I certainly got an education about certain types of students. For example, one whined to her friends for nearly an hour that her upcoming English class had assigned a 5-page reading; she could have read it in just the time she spent whining about it. Another didn't see the value in doing class assignments. Others didn't see why they should bother coming to class at all. I can't imagine being an instructor and having to deal with these young adults who absolutely did not want to be there and were intent on punishing the instructor for it.

  5. Deggjr Says:

    No doubt higher education has challenges. Do organizations serve their customers and sell credentials at a very high price? Or do organizations provide an arduous hero's path that only the worthy few can successfully navigate?

    Personally I'm grateful that I don't make a living through athletics and I feel the same about education.

  6. Mo Says:

    Meanwhile, in China…

    The Ninth Gate

  7. Jeneria Says:

    Currently I'm teaching at a good school. It's private, small, and has a specific focus (we only offer degrees in engineering, business, and nursing). I have taught at a R1 flagship university in the deep south where the majority of students were functionally illiterate, more interested in football than learning, and very quick to cry religious discrimination if they were required to read or listen to anything that was white Catholic/Baptist doctrine. It's a school where two years ago a tenured biology professor was removed from the introductory course because she was "too hard" on the students. They couldn't even see that they were lucky not to have a first year grad student running the class.

    I deal with entitlement issues even at my good school. Hell, yesterday I had a student throw a temper tantrum in class because my grading is too harsh. (It's a speech class. The first speech was supposed to go 5 minutes, he went for :47). He threatened to tell my department chair. I told him to calm down or I'd have him removed by public safety. By confronting me in front of his classmates he thought he'd cause a groundswell and pressure me into changing grades. It didn't work. His peers saw a 19 year old man throwing a conniption fit because he failed an assignment. I think to many it was eye opening.

    I often tell my students that I would love a pass/fail system because most of them wouldn't pass. No matter how smart they are, their shitty attitudes drag them down. When I talk about a pass/fail system, it wakes many of them up to reality.

  8. J. Dryden Says:

    This moment reeks of "nervous breakdown"–one step past burnout, and completely understandable in that sense: teaching students who don't want to be taught is a goddamned nightmare, and when you teach the ONLY section of a prerequisite, that is who you're usually teaching.

    I'm fortunate, in that I teach one of multiple sections of a required course, and can therefore tell my students "If you want an easy ride, go to one of the other sections. Seriously, only stay if you want to learn." Many of them–the ones who'd be problems–do indeed leave–because they have somewhere to go. I cannot imagine the horror I'd have to endure if they didn't.

    Administrators are running schools with the keen awareness that their state government will no longer subsidize higher education. The sonsabitches who run the world and think that any taxes not spent on guns are tantamount to a return of the Holocaust have long since decided that education can go fuck itself. As a result, colleges and university have to maximize tuition as a source of revenue. (And yeah, there's a lot of wasteful spending within the college, too–why, hello there, athletics programs!)

    As a result, it's a come-one-come-all approach to admissions, and that means that people come to college in search of a vocational degree, and fuck that whole "education" bullshit. One of the students in the mass-flunked class complained that this would screw up the job he has lined up immediately after graduation. Exactly. That's what at stake here for him. I don't blame him for this priority, but it cannot be allowed to result in disdain for the steps between here and there.

    So, basically, I'm agreeing that this situation ought rightly to be placed on the door of the administration–if only so that they be forced to tell the teachers what the teachers have already figured out: "We don't care how awful they are–give them the grades that will allow us to keep taking their money." If you're going to be a shitheel, it's only fair that you admit to it.

  9. Amanda Says:

    I am not joking when I say that reading this post made me cry because it made me remember every chair thrown at me, every time a kid spit at me or called me a whore or a bitch. Every time I was held responsible for kids who refused to do work or take tests. Every time students were on their phones or talking to each other instead of listening. Once I did fail an entire 8th grade because they all revolted against a poster I wanted them to make about their favorite musical artist and they could choose ANYONE and they all said "well, if none of us do it, then she ca't fail us all." I did fail them all, and then my beautiful car was keyed and the school insurance refused to pay to have it fixed.

    The day I officially leave teaching is going to be one of the most beautiful days of my life. I cannot wait.

  10. Skippper Says:

    What's missing from the story is the "trigger." This guy put up with a lot of shit for most of the semester and, one day, he snapped. I'd love to know what it was that pushed him over the edge.

    It's like WW1. The war didn't start because the Archduke was assassinated. Nobody gave a rat's ass about him. No one liked him — not even the emperor. There was no public mourning for him — and bis funeral lasted 15 minutes. But his death was an excuse for a long-awaited and devastating war that we're still fighting.

    So, I'd like to know what was the professor's "Archduke" moment. It was probably something that, under different circumstances, a professor would shrug off, but for this guy, it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

  11. quixote Says:

    Jeeesus. I've never taught anything but college, and I haven't done that in ten years. I never came across behavior like that. When I was starting out, I taught in a community college. Some students were not prepared (in bold caps, really) but they didn't blame me for that. Some of the students in the CC should have been going to Harvard but didn't have the money. It was quite a range. Everybody was quiet. Nobody called me names.

    Same at the 4-year school where I taught next. At a high-falutin research university, there were more students driving Porsches and wondering why the hell the whipping boy didn't do their work for them, but they were just whiny, not rude. And then at a big state school, no Porsches, but otherwise also what I would call normal.

    And now this. What the hell happened? How did we get from there to here in ten years? Why did nobody send me a memo? No, seriously, WHAT HAPPENED?

  12. anotherbozo Says:

    Wow. I still remember being a visiting faculty member twice at the same New England college: the first time my students were razor-sharp, exceptional, driven to be outstanding; the second time, a scant five years later, enrollment had fallen off, the college accepted a lot of marginal cases (whose parents had money), the students were all about doing as little as possible, and the dorms had turned into drug stores. I never could adapt to the second scenario.

    Thank God I'm out of teaching.

  13. John Danley Says:

    Reminds me of community mental health. They welcome the disaffected client and forward the tab to Medicaid, but the treatment outcomes are anyone's guess.

  14. Mo Says:

    Anyone else remember the horrifying scene in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy where the new school teacher terrifies the class bullies with a bullwhip?
    Those same class bullies who had beaten his predecessor to death.

  15. Rich Says:

    I taught a couple times for a place like this–an odd campus of a state system that has different schools take responsibility for different disciplines where they presumably excel. So i worked for another campus but taught at this one. The coordinator of courses for the campus, sadly, seemed to be locked in some Stockholm syndrome. She contacted me after complaints about the work I was assigning–she seemed all set to take the students' side except i could document that that I assigned less reading and fewer assignments than than the same course being offered on the "home campus", while using the same text. the students, for their part, were poorly prepared and even the "good ones" had an attitude of being able to negotiate anything–they had been the ones who had the coordinator wrapped around their finger. I never was asked to teach here again and wouldn't have accepted if invited. Dealing with very poorly prepared students (mostly graduates of a supposedly very good school system and the supposedly very good community college system in the same suburban DC county). What did prepare me, though, was having taught at a surprisingly awful flagship state university where the best students (as well as some of rthe worst) were from out of state.

  16. Jesse B Says:

    If I had to predict which state this would happen in it would 100% be Texas. I did my graduate work there at a large state institution and also interacted with a high school and middle school. Nothing was this bad, but there is a level of entitlement the students express that is unbelievable. A B is a bad grade that they deserve for showing up and "trying" hard. They've grown up surrounded by propaganda about how Texas is ABSOLUTELY THE BEST PLACE EVER, WHY WOULD ANYONE GO ANYWHERE ELSE? l literally had students in college that had never been out of state. Not because of economics, but because they had no desire to see the rest of the world. At. All. Sure, there were some good students. The difference between that and student in the Midwest is striking. Not being told you are from the best place ever, and being taught how to form thoughts into generally complete sentences in grade school does wonders for how well students perform.

    I have friends who went through the TAMU-G engineering program who seem reasonably well prepared. I have no idea what the business school is like. For this to happen, my hunch is that there are serious structural issues from the administration to the department.

  17. grondo Says:

    Public school is compulsory; college is not. Isn't that why K-12 schools HAVE to take all comers? One has to get off one's ass and make things happen in order to get into a college, even a shitty one, right? So what's the kids' motivation to go, and why do they whine so much once they're there?

    I don't understand why these kids go if they don't want to go (aside from family pressure, maybe) and I don't understand why profs would give grades that reflect anything aside from actual performance? What are the grade-inflating forces that push profs to coddle these little fuckers? If a whole class of snot-nosed punks fails Intro Western History, then so be it – they should fail and face the consequences. So why coddle them?

    THAT would be a great subject to write about!

  18. Mike Says:

    I have taught at seven different colleges in five states, the current one in a tenure-track position at a school in Texas. I can say from experience that the students here are no worse than anywhere else, and better than some places. They have a lot of pride in their state, but that does not translate into an unusually inflated sense of entitlement.

    I have taught at a flagship state university, an elite private university, a couple of highly-regarded liberal arts colleges, and several regional state schools, so I have seen a very wide range of students. The best students at any of these schools could have succeeded at all of them. I have had good classes and bad classes, but I have not found that to correlate with the quality of the school. It actually has a lot to do with the classroom atmosphere, which is created by a combination of the particular mix of students and the attitude of the professor. I wonder how much this situation was caused by the professor's approach; a bad group of students is most likely to become a disaster when mixed with a cynical professor with a bad attitude.

    This is not to say that the students didn't deserve it; I suspect they absolutely did. But this is a problem a professor should see coming, and head off earlier.

  19. Buckeye Says:

    I teach at one of the largest research 1's around. As a land grant, it is now near impossible to get into main campus without top scores and high GPA's. Our international admissions (with the inflated out of state/country tuition) have brought about a huge number of Chinese undergrads unable to speak or understand English. I mean "Your assignment was due friday, and for each additional day it is late I will be deducting another half a letter grade. Do you understand?" Silence *fumbles with cellphone* then records question as I repeat it. Later, a pathetically worded email (addressed to Officer) comes, begging for understanding. This happens a lot. As a department, we have decided to grade these unprepared students just like any other unprepared undergraduate student—-poorly. Eventually, the administration will catch on and apply some kind of pressure. Sigh.

  20. Robert Says:

    Wow. I didn't graduate from UC Berkeley (after five years), but it never occurred to me to blame anyone else but me. Reminds me of a conversation I had with someone at a party back in the XXth century, who had just gone through est. I asked him to explain the message of the program, and he said,"that we have to take personal responsibility for our own actions." I was puzzled; you mean there are other options? Thank Bob my parents never told me.

    My eldest brother teaches college English. From his accounts, I refer to his students as no-neck monsters. He appreciates that.

  21. Mike Furlan Says:

    I taught high school for 6 months (filled in for a teacher who died unexpectedly mid-year.)

    Since it wasn't my career, I just did what I thought right without concerns about things like losing a pension. My first day running my own class I had a third year student who had been disruptive since day one of high school removed from the school in the first 5 minutes of the day. (Problem child number 2 lasted another month.)

    Now, if I had been a year or two from retirement, I probably would have just ignored the problems and passed them on to the next years teachers.

    Both kids ended up getting specialized help and significantly more educational resources devoted to them. So they won in the end. Their classmates won because there were fewer classroom disruptions.

    But, had I been a career teacher, I might have lost.

  22. Katydid Says:

    @grondo: I expect a lot of "students" are there because where else can they have a 4-, 5-, or even 6-year party? One of my coworkers funded 5 years at a school where tuition, room, and board came to $70,000/year. Even after her parents paid the tuition, room, board, and books, the special little snowflake kept exceeding her credit card limit every month. She graduated after 5 years with a degree in art, and after three years of zero employment (she refuses to teach, and really, how many jobs are available for art majors?), she's now headed off to grad school at an Ivy league school. I hear similar stories from Baby Boomers about their special, special snowflakes; the entitled darlings were raised with no sense of discipline or responsibility whatsoever–let the parents handle it.

  23. cromartie Says:

    TAMU Galveston is more of a glorified trade school, or essentially a college focused on a specific vertical (in this case, maritime studies).

    When viewed through the lens of a trade school, this behavior is, I suppose, a little more understandable. Most likely it's kids who are essentially legacies.

    This is slightly different than being an open admissions dumping ground. It's an even more entrenched type of entitlement.

  24. Captain Blicero Says:

    "I hear similar stories from Baby Boomers about their special, special snowflakes; the entitled darlings were raised with no sense of discipline or responsibility whatsoever–let the parents handle it."

    The generational shit is bullshit. But if you want to blame a generation of parents, today's Millenials who you hear so much negative crap about have been increasingly raised by GenXers over the past several years. There's definitely a generational divide in the parenting. The Boomers seemed mostly fine (I was raised by Boomers). The kids raised by GenXers are different. Not necessarily more entitled, or lazier. But there is a palpable difference.

  25. Captain Blicero Says:

    What's the average age people have kids anyway? My father was 30 when I was born, my mom 34. Some of my friends parents were mid to late 20s.

    The Boomers ended in what? '62? So if you are in the last year of boomers and your kid is starting high school, he/she is 14. Which means you would've had them at 38 or 39. Much less common. Based on when most people have kids, I guarantee you that the vast vast majority of children younger than college aged today are being raised by Gen Xers. Sure, some people have kids late in life. My grandfather was born at the very beginning of the Greatest Generation and didn't have my mom until his mid fifties. I'm sure there are some, not a lot, but some children of Silent Generationers in high school and college today. But mostly Gen Xer. I'd say that if you examined the average 18-22 year old, you'd find a similar makeup too. They were born in 1993-1997. Probably an even split between Boomers and Xers but I have a strong feeling that Xers have made up a good chunk of the parents for several years now. If you're going to blame parents, it's time to start shifting the generational blame.

  26. Captain Blicero Says:

    What's the average age people have kids anyway? My father was 30 when I was born, my mom 34. Some of my friends parents were mid to late 20s.

    The Boomers ended in what? '62? So if you are in the last year of boomers and your kid is starting high school, he/she is 14. Which means you would've had them at 38 or 39. Much less common. Based on when most people have kids, I guarantee you that the vast vast majority of children younger than college aged today are being raised by Gen Xers. Sure, some people have kids late in life. My grandfather was born at the very beginning of the Greatest Generation and didn't have my mom until his mid fifties. I'm sure there are some, not a lot, but some children of Silent Generationers in high school and college today. But mostly Gen Xer. I'd say that if you examined the average 18-22 year old, you'd find a similar makeup too. They were born in 1993-1997. Probably an even split between Boomers and Xers but I have a strong feeling that Xers have made up a good chunk of the parents for several years now. If you're going to blame parents, it's time to start shifting the generational blame.

  27. Captain Blicero Says:

    And there are no more Millenials being born. They stopped production a little over a decade ago. Any year now we're gonna start hearing whining about Gwneration Z.

  28. Captain Blicero Says:

    And based on when my parents and a lot of my friends' parents had kids, I bet there's a good showing of early Millenial parents at Kindergarten and early elementary school parent-teacher conferences. The Boomers are increasingly grandparents.

  29. Jimcat Says:

    So tell me, what is the difference between kids raised by Boomers and those raised by GenX? I'm a GenX parent of two post-millennial kids (in elementary school now) and I want to make sure that I live up to the stereotypes of my generation.

  30. Anonymouse Says:

    Captain Blicero: most of GenX is in their late 30s – early 40s. I doubt anyone in their 30s has kids who are college-aged.

  31. Anonymouse Says:

    Jimcat; obviously Blicero has issues with Gen X'ers. There's a lot of generational stuff from various institutes and psychologists out on the internet. Generally (no pun intended) speaking, Gen X'ers were born after the Boom; the original latchkey kids, when schools were slashing their budgets, afterschool programs were being cut left and right, and the general feeling in American society was that the Boomers were the pinnacle of human glory. Thanks to St. Ronnie, Gen X'ers knew that ketchup was a vegetable in school lunches (meaning you could either have your greasy tator tots OR the ketchup to cut the grease, but not both), and college tuitions went from being nearly-free to unaffordable even on a fulltime entry-level salary. Gen X graduated into a recession where most jobs were McJobs or forever entry-wage because of the huge bulge of humanity just ahead of them. Many in that generation have yet to recover from that, and the brief boom in the early 90s did not benefit Gen X, but the early Millenials just graduating from college.

    The "Baby on Board" stickers on cars? Not for Gen X. The "trophy just for showing up"? Again, that was the gen that followed Gen X–the Millenials. The petulant entitlement shown by Blicero? Again, Millenial trait.

  32. Jeneria Says:

    Anonymouse–I remember being a junior in high school in 1993 and being told by Time, Newsweek, WSJ that we were going to be the first generation to not do as well as our parents and that we would need more schooling in order to do less well. I think that's when many of us said "Fuck it! I'm going to get a philosophy, history, English, degree and at least have fun if I'm not going to be able to buy my own home or retire." Douglas Copeland and David Foster Wallace became our sages.

  33. mothra Says:

    What happened quixote? The rise of overly-protective parents, that's what happened. When parents started haranguing teachers over their kid's earned poor grade–and the administrators backed the parents over the teacher, everything slid right on down into hell. Now we see Republicans gleefully demonizing teachers to gain political points. It's disgusting.

  34. Townsend Harris Says:

    Look on the bright side: this incident makes clear to administrators the importance of a compliant faculty mostly composed of adjuncts.

    At my institution, administrators in human resources made clear *all* adjuncts automatically lose their jobs at the end of every semester, with less than 100% rehired for the next semester. Those same human resources administrators made clear to full-timers "We let go of adjuncts for any reason or for no reason, no reason at all. But don't ever tell them why. It'll expose us to lawsuits."

  35. Freecookies Says:

    The MBA types will NEVER see the consequences of their actions! You don't get it, the system is run, for THEIR benefit, not yours!

    Their job is to see just how little they can get away with paying you to put up with their decisions – good, bad or indifferent. You carry the risk, and they get the reward. You think it's any different in the corporate, rather than the academic world, it's not.

    You really want to see change, you're going to have to unionize. Or find another line of work. Or – go into management and see how little you can pay someone else to put up with your decisions.

    But unions are for smelly blue collar workers who probably listen to country music, right? They're not for people who don't smell and use big words.

  36. The Pale Scot Says:

    @ Jeneria,

    "and very quick to cry religious discrimination if they were required to read or listen to anything that was white Catholic/Baptist doctrine. "

    Did you mean 'wasn't", could you elaborate.

  37. Jeneria Says:

    Yes, I meant "wasn't." For example: I taught a science fiction class. Many students refused to read the books outright because they dealt with evolution, made references to drinking/drugs, or in their mind blasphemed God by not overtly including religion into the themes. That semester I taught Snow Crash which was derided for being anti-military and anti-religion, Brave New World which they didn't understand was dystopic, and Kiln People by David Brin which offended them because it dealt with cloning (albeit temporary) and was not a subtle discussion of civil rights. Now on their own, these are valid points and worthy of analysis and discussion, but they didn't want to analyze or discuss. They wanted the books to reflect their own beliefs and that was it. Any attempt at class discussion was me trying to "indoctrinate" them to a liberal agenda.

    I taught a Madness and Civilization course. Some of the papers were about how mentally ill people need to toughen up and stop being a drain on society. Alternately, other papers were about how people suffer from madness because they don't follow the right religion (that's how it was phrased, right religion) which in that part of the country was either Baptist or Catholics (and the Baptists often regarded the Catholics as pagan).

    I had student bring in paperwork from their Catholic high schools with statements like "If you don't have premarital sex, you won't get cancer. If you do have premarital sex, you will lose all your friends. Girls who use birth control will become sterile and not be able to have children." These sheets were brought in as proof that sex education was wrong, birth control was wrong, and women in education was wrong (still not sure how that one follows).

    It's not like all the students were this way, most were delightfully apathetic about all things not football but there were enough in this mindset to make classes difficult.

  38. Rich Says:

    @grondo

    That doesn't happen because many schools (and indeed entire systems) are more interested in enrollments than education.

    My department chair has had to sign grade changes more than once on my behalf because of this. I simply won't do it. My job is to TRY to facilitate some sort of learning.

    The school is in the business of trading credentials for cash. Why they bother with the charade of academic integrity and draconian reporting requirements on the part of the faculty is beyond me (I know why, but you get my drift…).

  39. Concerned Sigh Says:

    I wish I hadn't read the comments. Now I feel compelled to make one.

    You should know that I'm not a teacher; I don't have any experience teaching.
    I imagine it is a highly frustrating career. Especially for those working as adjuncts.
    I really wish our society (speaking as an American) valued educators more than it currently does. It is vastly underappreciated work, and that's probably more of an understatement than I am even aware of.

    You should also know that I am one of those "entitled", "special snowflakes" born in 1993. Truly though, I am young, and I am speaking here from a limited perspective.

    I work in fast-casual dining, and you probably aren't going to like the comparison I'm about to make.

    I haven't been working too long, but I have managed to work my way up from a starting position to lower level management. In my job, I spend a lot of time working with people that seem to have very little patience with me. People can be extremely rude and unnappreciative. There are obstacles- cultural and lingual barriers. I try my best, every day, to meet people where they're at – both coworkers and customers. You HAVE to; it's part of the job.

    I do not spend time wishing I'd get "better" customers, who'd act more like how'd I want them to act. I never think about whether or not my coworker's "deserve" to be working there, because ultimately, that is not my decision. Instead, I focus on how I can get them to do their best work- how I can help the team feel relatively satisfied with one another and themselves at the end of the day.

    I don't consider to myself to be "above" my position or the people I work with, though I do believe we all deserve higher wages for our contributions; many people in the industry work off the clock, unpaid . I know you're not supposed to be "proud" about working in fast food, but I actually love my job. There are
    (a lot of) nights when I want to head straight to the bar after clocking out. I've had a few really bad conflicts with some coworkers. There are also a few people who make it very rewarding, and it can be wonderful to see people learn and get better at their jobs.

    It seems to me that those most guilty of looking to be "coddled" are several college educators posting comments on this article. The author of the article also comes off as elitist and entitled. These educators seem to think it is "unfair" that they do not get to teach the "caliber" of students they deserve. If you consider yourself to be "above" whatever class you're teaching – you should seriously consider changing professions, because I can only imagine the way that attitude manifests itself in your classroom. Do you realize that students whose SAT scores sit in the 25th percentile range, are in fact capable of sensing that you do not think they are worthy of your supreme pedagogical prowess? Students with disabilities realize that you are uncomfortable with their presence in your classroom, and that deep down you honestly wish they weren't in /your/ classroom.

    I mean, my heart goes out to those who have suffered abuses at work, I know for a fact that some educators do.

    Maybe one day I'll look back at what I'm saying right now, and I'll cringe in embarrassment, but I just honestly can't imagine what would happen in my place of work if I came in with a similar attitude.

    (P.S. Maybe you think a PhD entitles you to better working conditions than myself or my co-workers? I'd disagree with you; I think all human beings are equally entitled to a living wage and a safe workplace. Call me crazy.)

  40. Captain Blicero Says:

    I have nothing against Gen X ers at all. I'm just saying that the constant whining about Boomers and how they raised their kids is becoming less and less relevant as the years go on. I actually think Boomers/X/Millenials and shoehorning people into generations is stupid.

    Anonymous: You're a moron. Congratulations, you're part of the problem. You bought into the "Millenials are entitled shits, worst generation evar" bullshit hook, line and sinker. How does it feel to be a credulous dum-dum?

  41. Captain Blicero Says:

    Note that I never said that Gen Xers are worse parents. I said younger kids seem different. I was trying to push back against the kneejerk Boomer blaming I perceived (Gen Xers *love* to bitch about Boomers-I'n not into this generational bullshit but that's one stereotype that's definitely true). Now maybe that's just my perception, but Anonymouse, you are quite the oversensitive little bitch! I hereby proclaim you an honorary Millenial. Congratulations!

  42. Captain Blicero Says:

    By the way-to the person who mentioned David Foster Wallace, some people peg the Boomers as stretching up to 1964. Which makes sense, as a generation is what, about 20 years, and the Boomers by definition can't start before '45. So you could call Wallace a Boomer.

    Trey Parker is an Xer and he seems to speak for a lot of Millenials and even the new generation Z-the oldest of them are about 15 now! These categories are beyond useless. Yeah, old people are different from younger people in some ways, but it's really about cultural touchstones technological changes and political paradigm shifts-and you cannot shoehorn that into neat 20 year boxes.

    If you're thinking in terms of Xers and Boomers, you're a moron. It's cute pop history, but no sociologists give it much credence.

  43. Concerned Sigh Says:

    Mmm, while I do think the author comes off as elitist, I've realized that my above post is more in response to the comments on than the sentiment of the original article.

  44. April Says:

    Wow….so many issues.

    First of all, as an ex-teacher (I'm evil admin now!) of both college and high school students I completely understand the frustration of trying to teach "students" who absolutely don't want to be there. I did, in fact, work for four months in a school (HS) where the kids WOULD throw stuff, get into fights during class, walk out, etc. and the admin did nothing. (Charter school. No further explanation needed.) At the colleges where I taught I didn't have that problem BUT I have been out of that teaching now for 8 years. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see things have changed.

    Re. boomers raising snowflake millenials, I'm a boomer (exactly in the middle, as it happens) and I raised two millenials. One graduated summa cum laude from UCLA and the other went the non-college route. Neither one of them thinks the world owes them jack shit, and if I ever talked to a teacher (which I did extremely rarely) it certainly wasn't to plead on their behalf. I don't know who, exactly, is raising the special snowflakes, but it's certainly not ALL boomers.

    @concerned sigh I understand what you're trying to say, but disruptive, lazy, whiny students make it impossible to do your job as an educator. Instead of comparing these students to rude customers, think of customers who block servers from going to the kitchen to get food, or spit in other customers' dishes, and then you'll have a more accurate idea of the situation in a bad classroom.

    Finally – open enrollment, high standards, retention/completion. Pick two.

  45. April Says:

    Oh, I forgot to comment on the China comment. I'm in China now, working for an education company. If you want to see special snowflakes, come work with the "little emperors" we have here. The phrase "6 pockets, 1 mouth" (one set of parents and two sets of grandparents for one kid) describes exactly how these little spoiled brats get to be spoiled brats. Many times I have seen small children – usually, but not exclusively, boys – ages 4-6 scream at their mothers and even hit them to get what they want. (They get it. Mothers actually APOLOGIZE to the brat for making them upset.) Yes, they put the time in to memorize stuff for the gaokao but ask them to do any actual THINKING or put effort into a project and the whines come out. The graduation rate of Chinese students from western universities is appallingly low. (One article I read said about 20%) Starting next year (I believe) public university rankings will take into account graduation rate. When that happens look for a serious drop in the number of Chinese students being admitted to those universities.

  46. concerned sigh Says:

    #notALLboomers

  47. concerned sigh Says:

    Honestly I don't think having lazy or whiny students prevents educators from doing their job- that's part of the job. Disruptive students and situations are somewhat of a different story. I don't know, maybe it's the articles original tone, the seeming lack of empathy demonstrated towards students- it rubs me the wrong way entirely.

  48. April Says:

    Ok, let me try a different analogy. You have a customer who sends everything back. It's too cold, it's too hot, it's too spicy or not enough….no matter what you or the cook does, the customer won't eat it. Then they leave complaining they are still hungry and it's all your fault.

    If part B of a class is dependent on the student learning part A, and the student refuses to do it, what are the teacher's options?

    1. They can keep teaching part A until, somehow, if only by osmosis, the student acquires enough knowledge to move on to part B. Problems with this is that there ARE at least a few students who have learned part A and are ready to move on, and of course all the material doesn't get covered;

    2. The teacher can take the student aside and try and figure out what the problem is. I would say that most good teachers do this already. But if the problem is the student simply won't do the work necessary to learn part A then what?

    3. The teacher can fail the student. No big deal unless the teacher is an adjunct whose employment depends on good student reviews.

    If you have a couple of bad students you can work around them. However, if they make up the majority of the class, now what?

    Seriously. How are you going to satiate my hunger if I won't eat any of your food? If I leave your place hungry under those conditions, is it really YOUR fault?

    All I can say is, you haven't been there. We have.

    Oh, this is something that always amazed me. I taught, among other things, anatomy and physiology. On one test a question was "Name the 12 cranial nerves". I told the students this would be on the test. It was worth 25% of the test grade. They didn't even have to spell them correctly, as long as they were close. In over 13 years of teaching you know the highest percentage of students in a class that got them all correct? I once had 40% The usual rate was about 25%. Now, when I was in college I NEVER had a prof who told me EXACTLY what was going to be on a test. If I had I sure as hell would have known that very thing, even if I didn't study anything else. And yet…..25-30%

    It still perplexes me to this day.

  49. April Says:

    One more thing….while I will agree with you that lazy and whiny students are part of teaching grade or high school (because the students HAVE to attend), it certainly isn't (or shouldn't be, anyway) part of college teaching. Attending college is a privilege, not a mandatory obligation, so any person who doesn't want to be there, shouldn't be.

    If you don't want to learn, get out of my fucking class so I can admit someone who does.

  50. April Says:

    (That should have read "get the fuck out of my class". What can I say? Good wine.)

  51. concerned sigh Says:

    Ok, April. You're right I haven't been there. If any thing I've said implies that I believe it is the educator's "fault" that their students are unmotivated or unsuccessful academically, it was not intentional. That is not how I feel. There is only so much an individual can do. I do however, believe that educators are responsible for trying their best to help and accommodate students regardless. To go with your analogy, if a person keeps ordering the food I'm going to keep making it. It's frustrating but they're paying for it and it's my job. At a certain point I'm going to stop taking it personally. I try not to expect other people to appreciate me. Maybe that's fucked up. I've been told I have low self-esteem.

    To address your A&P story. I myself had an exam today that I was vastly unprepared for. I should have done better because the professor was pretty explicit about what we would need to know for the exam. I agree it really is a shock to me how much some professors at CC will tell you about what's going on to be on the test. I mean, in high school I NEVER received such extensive and detailed study guides. It's really bizzare to me. With this exam I just fucked up, because I didn't study enough- and I really really hope that my professors don't take my mistakes personally. I have my own difficulties and issues in life. I hope they see that it's not about them. I'm in community college, not Harvard. Sometimes I get distracted and school is not my top priority.

    Honestly, thirty percent sounds about right to me for 100% correctness. How many of your students got 11/12 or 10/12 correct. Not everyone is aiming to get an A- that's just a reality. People work, they have kids, they have ill parents, they have mental disorders or illnesses, and memorizing 12 cranial nerves is not their top priority. Thinking about it, when professors put that kind of stuff on exams, I try to do well to make THEM happy. I don't really care about being able to name all seven carpals. I guess that could be a fun party trick, but I have no personal motivation to memorize information I can easily access at any time. I don't think it makes me a more intelligent person. I just like making other people happy and I do need to maintain a certain gpa, but not everyone is going to care about making you happy.

    I also disagree with your conception of what college is. It's really less of a "privilege" now than it was when you probably attended. It's become more of a necessity (and a costly one!) for people to make a decent wage. Even then- it's no guarantee. More people are going to school because they need to. It's sad that students aren't as enthusiastic about education and learning as you'd like them to be, but they're all just people trying to make it.

    If you think you're good to teach these people- if you think they're not worth your time and effort- I don't know what to tell you. Maybe you need to find a different job.

  52. concerned sigh Says:

    Also, do you always drink wine at 8 in the morning?

  53. concerned sigh Says:

    Whoops sorry. Forgot you are in China!

  54. April Says:

    In China we drink wine at 8 in the morning just to get through a day in China! LOL (Do I need to add JK?)

    Ok, you've acquired some misconceptions about me that I would like to clear up. First of all, I never gave a shit about whether students appreciated me or not. First rule of teaching is, you will never EVER please all the students, no matter what you do. I once did an experiment – first day of class I told all the students they got an A. Period. There would be ungraded exams just so they could see how much they had learned (or not) but….A. They didn't have to show up ever again. A. I would teach the class as hard as I taught any of my classes so those who stayed and participated would learn a lot, and this was a class specific to certain majors that they needed and, presumably would like since it was directly part of their major. Microbiology. By the end of the second week I had three students out of 60 left who kept coming to class. Those three students worked hard and did well and they were PISSED that they earned their A whereas the rest of the class got one for "free".

    I've often wondered what happened to the rest of the students when they got into their respiratory programs, dental programs, med tech programs and medical school not knowing anything about bacteria and viruses.

    Second, I agree with you re. memorizing random lists of shit. I kept that down to an absolute minimum. But all my students were pre-medical something, and the cranial nerves comes up in their admissions exams. I would do my students a disservice to not require they learn them. And no, students either memorized them all, or only a couple. (By and large – of course there were a few who missed only one or two, but that was not usual.)

    Third, we aren't talking about students who are trying! That's been the whole point of this discussion! Every good teacher will do what they can to help those students. We're talking about the ones who don't give a shit, but then blame the teacher for their failure. That is, the ones who are even CAPABLE of doing the work. Everybody's talents are different. I can't draw a ruler with a straight line. If I suddenly enrolled in a high-level art class the teacher would be right to throw me out on my ass. Students who are not literate, who aren't reasonably fluent in the language, who, I'm sorry, just don't have the mental capacity to learn dif calc should not be in classes with people who are. It's not fair to the other students, and it's not fair to the teacher.

    This – It's sad that students aren't as enthusiastic about education and learning as you'd like them to be, but they're all just people trying to make it – is exactly NOT the students we are talking about.

    Finally, I AM out of teaching. As I said I'm evil admin now. I work with our teachers helping them to develop better teaching methodologies.

    For the record, it's 6:20 AM now. Instead of wine I have milk tea. Going to Shanghai for the holiday weekend. "Merchant of Venice", great western food and SHOPPING!

  55. Anonymous Prof Says:

    @April: a thousand thanks for telling it like it is. I've noticed the same thing, BTW: I can tell the students outright "I am about to give you the answer to question #1 on your next exam," and maybe 10% of the students will actually be able to regurgitate it on the exam. I've had other profs tell me the same thing. Specifically, it seems like students do better on the questions we *don't* reveal ahead of time.

    @concerned sigh: For the love of God, kid, you just don't get it. You are not a teacher. You know nothing. So quit telling us how to deal with the problems of teaching. You are not helping.

  56. Concerned Sigh Says:

    Anon Prof, I am not really trying to "help". I am sharing my perspective – that of a millennial part-time student. I guess that may or may not be "valuable" to you in dealing "with the problems of teaching".

    You might be able to tl;dr what I've said into:
    Millennials are not the entitled pieces of shit we're made out to be. Learn to deal with a changing student body.

    April,
    Are students who simply "don't try" that common? How can you tell if someone is not trying? I really mean that as a genuine question; I'm not trying to passively imply anything – I just have no idea.
    I tend to operate under the assumption that everyone IS trying, even if their efforts are not always apparent to me. It just helps me get through the day.