Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mysteries of freshman comp

1) When one is teaching two identical sections of freshman composition, and taking care to teach them the same information in identical ways, why is there always a good class and a bad class, and often a dramatic difference between the two? More puzzlingly, why are my bad classes always the ones that meet later in the day? Shouldn't I be better at this when I've already had a trial run in the morning?

2) What's up with students who get busted for plagiarism on an assignment worth a whopping 5% of their grade, plead that they didn't know any better, and then proceed to skip the next week of classes, ensuring that they will get no credit for the course? If I were trying to convince the prof that I was a good student who had made one unfortunate mistake out of ignorance, you can bet my ass would be in that chair. Indeed, why is it ALWAYS the ones who are already struggling who choose to skip? Do they somehow think it's better to ensure that they'll fail instead of spending the rest of the semester worrying about it?

3) Why does there seem to be an upswing, this year, in students who want the university to police their behavior? I swear, I am getting so sick of reading argumentative papers about how smoking should be banned on campus, and alcohol should be banned on campus, and all campuses should be gated communities where visitors have to get a permit from the campus police, and colleges should return to the principle of in loco parentis*, and faculty members should conduct monthly searches of dorm rooms to make sure none of the students have alcohol, drugs, weapons, matches, or candles (!) Is it a deep South thing? A post-Virginia-Tech thing? A reflection of the fact that Misnomer U. already has rather overprotective policies, so students of a libertarian bent tend to end up somewhere else? Whatever, back in the last millennium we would SO not have stood for any of this. I feel old.

4) Why is the end of the semester so close and yet so far away?

* Yes, the student used the phrase in loco parentis. At least she genuinely learned something from her research!


heu mihi said...

All my comp students want the parents to take care of everything. Violence in the media? Parents need to explain what's appropriate to their kids. Racism? Parents need to teach their kids better. Eating habits, homophobia, alcohol abuse, you name it--we need better parents!!!

Seriously, do these 18-year-olds just love listening to their parents' advice? Or what? It's so disturbing--like there are no systematic problems (with systematic solutions) in our society; it's all just about what happens within the family unit.

I think that next year I will BAN that reasoning/excuse/advice from my comp sections.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Perhaps the problem is that they all understand how family units work, and what a solution at that level would look like, while they have only a hazy idea how the rest of society works and they don't want to get it wrong? Or something...

Personally, I was all ABOUT reforming the system when I was eighteen, to the point of becoming a card-carrying Marxist, but I probably looked equally silly to people who were only a few years older.