Thursday, February 18, 2016

Students Aren't Coddled. They're Defeated.

Sometimes I think the hardest part of teaching is balancing between what students want, and what they need. In my general education, first-year writing course, a few periods in I offer students a hypothetical. I tell them they can have an “A” in exchange for never doing anything. No classes, no assignments, no reading, no feedback, nothing. They just have to make sure not to tell anyone because we’d all get in a lot of trouble.[1] This past semester 80-85% of my students said they would take that deal. Their reasons?

 An “A” is an “A,” and “A’s” are good because they help their overall GPA. It would mean more time to dedicate to their other classes. They could sleep in later. They do not like English classes and would therefore dodge the unpleasantness of such a thing. They could check off a requirement without having to do any work. They could take 18 instead of 15 hours and be closer to graduation. They could pick up an extra shift at their job.

They ask, “What’s the trick?” This is when I tell them they won’t learn anything. They acknowledge this reality, but are willing to shrug it off for all the above reasons. When I drop the guaranteed grade to a “B” I only get about 50% of the class to bite. For 30% of them, the pain of the course will be worth it if they can get an “A” instead, but otherwise, no. Here is where we are tempted to lament the coddling of the “everyone gets a trophy,” “special snowflake” generation. They are spoiled and entitled. Swine unable to appreciate the pearls cast before them. I have a different take. Students are not coddled or entitled, they are defeated. We have divorced school from learning, and this is the result.

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