Idiocracy Report

not a dunce
Image by Laura Burlton - via Flickr

The Red launch tour continues today at Ex Libris where I’m talking about my favorite modern fairy tales!

So one of the things readers expressed interest in hearing more about was my crazy student stories.  I teach college students middle to upper level psych classes.  By the time they get to me, there is a certain level of expectation in terms of their capability and what they should be able to do.  Sadly, I get ample proof from week to week that many of them don’t perform at that level. I’ll refrain from a lengthy discussion of the problems with public education that this is rooted in and stick to the funny stuff.

In one of my classes I have a mandatory weekly discussion question.  It’s 20% of students’ grades.  I have a list of anywhere from 6-10 possible questions, and they are supposed to pick one and answer it in APA style, indicating that they can properly cite a source and not plagiarize.  One of the central tenets of the assignment is that they use facts to support their answer, be they just from the textbook or from outside sources like peer-reviewed journal articles.

Some students take to this beautifully.  Last week I had one student write me a fantastic applied theory response using the video game Left For Dead as the example.  He nailed the concept and entertained me in one–not an easy thing to do with this particular subject.  But for every awesome student like this, I have three or four times as many students who just don’t get it.

My discussion questions are due at 11 PM Thursday nights.  I usually do my grading on Fridays so it’s not hanging over my head all weekend (and because I grade way harsher on Monday because I hate Monday and that’s not fair to students).  Two weeks into class I get a call from a student who is vehemently disagreeing with my grade on her assignment.

“I did my refers [not references] and :mumble: [what I assume was supposed to be citations.]”

I remember this student.  She did very poorly in one of my other classes.  So I said, “No, you didn’t actually use any references or citations in your assignment.  There are links in the course to the APA tutorial explaining how it works.”

“I didn’t on my first querstion [yes, querstion], but I did on my second and you counted off.”

“That’s not possible.  I have not yet graded Discussion Question 2.” This was one of those weeks I had put it off and NOT graded on Friday.

“You did too!  It says so right here!”

“I have not graded Discussion Question 2.” :speaks very slowly:

This student continued to argue with me for nearly five minutes, to the point I finally got very short and repeated myself, reiterated the location of the tutorial, and hung up the phone.  Then I went to the feedback email I had sent, just to see if I had accidentally typoed the subject line.  DQ1.  Nope.  As it happened, she didn’t have any citations and her single reference was entirely wrong on DQ2.

Idiocracy.  I’m telling you.  It’s coming true.


15 thoughts on “Idiocracy Report

  1. *sighs* Yeah, gotta love that lack of sense. Because otherwise you’ll want to scream or cry.

    I’m currently tutoring two home schooled boys, ages 9 and 11, and I got to see their first writing assignments last week. I’ve actually seen worse from college students and business professionals.

  2. I think Idiocracy would be completely hilarious if it weren’t so danged close to the truth. I guess thats the point of brilliant satire though, huh? That movie should be required viewing.

    I thought for a brief moment about going into teaching, but having to deal with situations like that would likely push me over the edge. You are a better woman than I am, Kait Nolan!

  3. Don’t get me started on students who grade grub and can’t spell and don’t want to do any work… Just don’t get me started… And I’m not even a teacher!

  4. And these will be the next leaders of our country – god help us! She sounds like “the dude” (my just-entered-university step-son) who couldn’t believe he wasn’t EMAILED the itinerary for orientation…”like…they expect ME to LOOK it up???”
    I can’t believe you teach these kids. I think I’d off myself. LOL! Oh well, I guess the good ones make up for it. :)))

  5. One of the most ironic things about smaller universities, third-tier colleges, and public universities is that there are foreign students (some smaller private schools recruit them for their tuition money and don’t care if they succeed) who understand half the English that the native speakers do and still manage to work circles around them. Good on them, I say, but it’s sad when any student in higher education doesn’t realize how lucky she is to have that chance. :/ It upsets me. I want to shout, “We’re not all lazy with entitlement issues and proud to be ignorant, I promise!”

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