Friday, March 15, 2013

"This is just one of those things..."

That's how my chair prefaced her conveying of the latest request on the part of the administration to us. (Or rather, on the part of AN administrator; apparently everyone's favorite Dean made the comment).

My chair also added, "This is probably because one students screwed up, their parents got angry, and then called the president." (And because, she didn't add, the president's office didn't do as it SHOULD have done, and said, "Well, that's your child's problem then.")

Anyway. The request was, could we now look over the transcripts of all our advisees once a semester and let anyone who is getting close to graduating know? (This isn't a big deal for me as I have five or so advisees, but my chair has 70-some, seeing as she is the main person for the pre-meds).

But this is one of those principle-of-the-thing cases, and I was gratified when several of my colleagues went off on that suggestion.

And here's the thing: it was, apparently, one student being aggressively clueless, their parent, instead of chewing the student out and telling them THEY were responsible for their next semester's tuition, the parent called the President's office. And like any "good" administrator today, they caved.

And here's the thing that gets me: what it's doing is taking yet another responsibility off the students, and loading it on to the faculty and other advisors. So now we have YET ANOTHER duty we must find time to do, students who are, as I said, aggressively clueless get to pass along merrily through life without consequences.

I think what will eventually bring down civilization will not be bloated government, or the coarsening of popular culture, or even (as some conservatives think) same-sex marriage. No. It will be there being a critical mass of people who don't know their anus from their elbow, and who expect to go through life being helped along by the people who do. It's like Idiocracy coming to life. (I cannot watch that movie; it makes me twitch).

Back in the olden days - even when I was in college - the idea was "Here are a series of academic standards; achieve them or drop out." Now, it more often than not seems to be, "Oh, poor kid. You can't make the standards we've set? Well, obviously they are too high - let us lower them for you." Granted, that may be partly a difference between the Public Ivy I attended and the open-enrollment school I now teach at, but I don't think it's entirely that.

The other reason I really don't want to do this is that this will tick off a lot of our majors. The bio majors I get in the upper division classes I teach are, by and large, ADULTS. In fact, and I realize this is anecdotal, but - when I overhear them talking before class or during slack times in lab, and talk turns to "when are you graduating?," nearly all of them know TO THE CREDIT HOUR what they still have to take in order to earn their degree. They're doing it right. In fact, several of my students recently have requested their "grad check letters" - meaning they know they have enough credits, they want to verify they've taken all the classes, and they are on top of things. (The letters are due in in early April, for people planning to graduate in May).

And just as I'm ticked off by the mass e-mails sent to "remind" me to hold my office hours (which I always do, unless I'm sick or have been called into a meeting deemed More Important by TPTB), I'm sure our responsible adult students would be ticked off by us checking up on them and saying, "Hey, you're on track to graduate in December! You need to arrange for a grad check by...."

And I get it: a lot of departments have transfer students, or folks who change their majors, and credit hours can get sticky in those cases. But we also have transfers, or people who changed their majors, and they seem to be on top of it.

This is one of the things that bothers me the most about the modern world. It bothers me even more than having taxes appended to my (very basic, very cheap: no texting, no internet access) cell phone plan so that people who claim to be unable to afford them can have (perhaps) a nicer cell phone than I choose to pay for. Or the anecdotal stories of college kids going on food stamps so they can buy fresh organically raised rabbit meat or something, when I'm making do with chicken. No, I'm more bothered by being told, "Spend your TIME helping out other people who are too gormless or too lazy to take care of responsibilities themselves." Because time is the one thing we all have limited amounts of - and time is also the one thing where we have equal amounts in a day. I get 24 hours; the feckless kid who can't be arsed to check to see if he's close to graduating gets 24 hours. Granted, a certain number of those hours are spoken for: I'm in class perhaps 15 hours a week, I have 10 hours of office hours, I need to do grading and prep and set up my labs and do research and do the laundry and go grocery shopping and go to meetings at church and everything else.I don't know what the feckless kid has to do, but surely it's not as much as I do.

So why, in the name of all that's good, do you take the responsibilities HE should be fulfilling and push them on to me?

The other issue here, aside from the utter unfairness (and yes, I get that life isn't fair, but this is one case where it's especially UNfair) of making a responsible and busy person do the tasks of another person just because that other person can't keep their stuff together: how on earth does this train people to be responsible adults? I refuse to believe that most employers will pat an employee on the head and go, "Oh, you don't know how to fill out a W-9 form? Well, that's okay. We'll give it to Raj over in Engineering and make him do it." Or they won't say, "Oh, you forgot to come to work today? That's perfectly okay. We weren't doing anything important."

At some point, people have to learn it's sink or swim. And I think between the ages of 18 and 22 is actually a little LATE to start learning that, but now it seems some colleges want to put that off even further - push off the hard learning of life-lessons until the working world. And all I can say is, there are gonna be some ticked off students who can't get or keep a job because they're irresponsible. And they'll probably come back and blame their colleges - not for failing to prepare them, but for not finding a job for them.

The one bright spot? Our majors, who, as I said, are by and large ADULTS who can take care of their own stuff? They'll have a leg up over these gormless wonders who have been coddled along all the way.

1 comment:

Kate P said...

Well said, all of it. (I haven't been able to watch to the end of "Idiocracy" yet either!)