500 Words At A Time: Achievement Unlocked

Day One of any class, “Here is your syllabus (or manifesto), turn to page blah. This is a list of assignments and grading scale.”

Sounds pretty cut and dry: do work, get grades, and pass class or don’t do work, get low grades, and fail class. Yet, there are so many cheat codes for classes. Yes, I said cheat codes; ways to earn points or whatever grade currency is used by the professor. I have had classes where if the only thing I did was the cheat codes I would have passed the class. That is not right. If it was a game, I would have tossed it into the “poorly designed” pile and never touched it again.

  • Attendance points
  • Participation points
  • Extra credit points
  • Extra Extra credit points

And so on. My question is, why should points be given out for doing what you should do as a student. You should attend class, for no other reason than someone paid for you to attend that class. You should participate, that does not mean attend, that means asking questions, giving answers, and doing what you can to enhance your learning and hopefully the learning of others in the room. You should do the classwork, that is how you demonstrate what you have learned and leads to attendance and participation.

Yet, there are points for doing what you are supposed to do, essentially a trophy for taking part. What happened to accountability and challenging students? If a student doesn’t show up, the penalty is that they miss out on lectures, learning, and do poorly on tests and assignments (sure there will be exceptions). If a student doesn’t participate, that is on them, and silence has never hurt anyone. If a student doesn’t do the work, they are not understanding the material, have a shitty work ethic, poor time management or something else that either can be worked with or a sign of the student’s ability/willingness to be in college. In other words, for me, classwork is a sign of the student as much as a learning. Why is there this trend to incentivize everything? Why is there this seeming desire to ensure that the most people pass?

If a student does not show up to class or show up on time, screw them. They are “adults” and a job will not tolerate the behavior, the reward for not showing up to a job is FIRED. Not a system to incentivize attendance. Don’t want to participate in your job, guess what, no raise for you or FIRED. Not a system to encourage you to participate. Don’t do the work, guess what FIRED.

Keep in mind that I am speaking as a student who is sick and tired of watching the devaluation of education. By making education for everyone, not through work, but through incentives for mundane-hell, expected activities education is devalued. Maybe there is a reason why professors make it so easy to pass classes. I don’t know. However, at the end of every semester I know who passed because they put in the work and I know who passed because they point-grubbed every attendance, participation, and extra credit point possible. The point-grubbers, maybe they shouldn’t be in college, maybe they are not ready, maybe they should be directed towards things that fit the skills that they do posses.

College is not for everyone or at least college shouldn’t be for everyone and that is fine with me. There are many people who do not need a college education and there are plenty more who are not ready or capable to get a degree. However, by making college for everyone through lowering the standards the net effect is to devalue education. Instead of lowering the standards, through extra points for the mundane, raise the bar, just a bit. Hold students accountable, the world surely will.



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