I have long predicted that as the proportion of high school graduates attending college increases, the classes offered at colleges would have to become easier. If they did not, then the proportion of students failing courses would increase to intolerable levels.
This prediction was correct. As proof, I offer you the story of Dominique Homberger, who tried teaching Biology 1001, “a large introductory course for nonscience majors at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge.” A lot of kids flunked her first exam. And then a lot failed her second exam. In the end, about one out five students dropped out of her course.
Get it? Students were receiving bad grades! Grades that would decide their very future and control their fate. Horror!
The Dean, Kevin Carman, flew (well, walked vigorously) to the rescue. He booted Homberger from the classroom and had Homberger’s replacement artificially boost every kid’s grade.
“Don’t worry, poor children,” Dean Carman told the sobbing students, “Here are the As you deserve. You are not stupid. You are smart. Bad grades aren’t your fault. Remind your parents to send in your tuition checks.”
But, really—what excuse did LSU offer for this extraordinary act? “The grade distribution in Ms. Homberger’s section was far out of line with the historical pattern in Biology 1001.” I’m sure anybody from the Philosophy department (if they still have one) could have told them that this was a tautology with respect to the question asked: it is a restatement of the facts and not a reason.
Poor Dr Homberger didn’t see it coming. She ordinarily taught an advanced course in comparative anatomy, well known as brutal-going but rewarding. But she decided to see how the other half lived and volunteered to teach Bio 1001, a course specially designed for people who won’t be able to understand biology. Excuse me, I meant for non-science majors.
All went well until she gave her first exam. Students immediately complained of Homberger’s “eccentric format” of the test. A shocked LSU professor said that she “was using multiple-choice questions—but instead of the typical four or five possible answers, she used as many as 10.”
Oh, how I weep (retroactively) for the poor, benumbed kids who had to whittle down a correct response from twice as many possibilities as usual! (An example question from Homberger is copied below.)
What other infamies were there? Students said, “the questions often dealt with material that had been assigned as reading but never discussed in the classroom” (emphasis mine). Yes, dear readers, this termagant, this rogue professor assumed that the darlings in her charge would actually read the material assigned to them.
I know it may be difficult to face, but it was still worse. Many kids were downright “irked” because Homberger “did not give out detailed study guides for tests.” See! See! No wonder they couldn’t find the right answers.
Anyway, other smart alecks heard how Homberger was frog-marched from her classroom, so they began tossing criticisms at LSU. In the true spirit of collegiately, LSU responded by dishing dirt about Homberger, gossip which never rises above calling her a hard-ass.
For example, they put it out that “[s]tudents would complain and she would answer, ‘Did you have to read that? Well, then, you should know it.'” Just awful, no?
What about Homberger’s “academic freedom” to teach and grade how she likes? James Remsen, a professor of biology at LSU, called such talk “nauseating”, and said academic freedom “does not apply to what one teaches in core-curriculum courses.” He supports the Dean’s actions and said that LSU students “should worship at [his] altar” for giving them their (undeserved) grades.
Another prof fretted that Homberger didn’t hand out enough As, though he did acknowledge grading varies: “One [prof] is stingy with A’s, giving them to fewer than 5 percent of his students; one of his colleagues consistently awards 30 percent or more.” Did you catch that lingo? Grades aren’t earned, but are given or awarded.
LSU is now “investigating” a policy whereby the burden of grading can be removed from professors. Presumably, grading will be taken over by the Bursar. I jest not, dear reader. Just wait for the arguments that claim that high grades are a “right.”
Wait, did you hear that? It’s already being said. In an article on how maybe it’s not a good idea for all kids to go to college (sent in from reader and contributer Ari Schwartz), Peggy Williams, a counselor at a high school in suburban New York City said, “If we’re telling kids, ‘You can’t cut the mustard, you shouldn’t go to college or university,’ then we’re shortchanging them from experiencing an environment in which they might grow.”
The possibility that we’re saving them from routine humiliation caused from attempting what they cannot do evidently did not cross her mind.
From the Chronicle:
Students first read this article from the Financial Times (not usually considered difficult) and then answered this question:
(Choose the incorrect statement) Feral dogs in Moscow …
a. tend to have a similar look, with erect ears, thick fur, wedge-shaped head, and almond eyes.
b. look like a breed apart and very unlike the purebred dogs from which they may have descended.
c. vary in the color of their fur.
d. typically have a rolled-up tail.
e. tend to establish and defend territories.
f. are much less aggressive than wolves and are more tolerant of one another.
g. are an excellent example of feralization, which is the opposite mechanism of domestication.
h. rarely wag their tails and do not show affection toward humans.