I was saving this for another Conversation With Myself, to show that there are too many kids in school. But it’s more appropriate as a lead-in to another story about the Skip Class Calculator, which has now made national news.
Here, except for the name, is an exact email from one of my students that I received last week:
Hi. i missed class on tues and i was wondering what i missed.
Regular readers will know that I can forgive the occasional typo, so I cannot fault this student for forgetting to capitalize the “I”s etc. But the content; well, that’s another thing.
Now, I have no direct proof, but it is at least a possibility that this student used the Skip Class Calculator. If so, it shows yet another flaw in that “decision engine”: it offers no advice on what to do after you’ve skipped. Since I can be a good sport, I’ll provide that advice.
For starters, you certainly do not write an asinine email, one which offers no explanation or apology, but instead contains a request to be privately tutored. This will not endear you to your professor. Best thing is to say nothing, not in an email nor in class: pretend your absence never occurred.
Emergencies do occur, and sometimes you must miss—not skip—class because of them. But do not be tempted to invent an emergency to explain your absence. We professors are a superstitious bunch, and we’re beginning to think that the mere existence of our courses kills off more grandmothers than heart attacks.
But to the news.
Dennis Carter, of the eCampus News, did a story on the Calculator, which includes quotes from Yours Truly. Registration (an act which I did not complete) is required to read the entire article.
Carter also tracked down our pal Michael Anderson from the University of Texas at San Antonio (one of my favorite places on Earth), who has a different take than I do.
“If a class is moderately difficult, it could make [a student] think long and hard about making it to class and paying more attention,” said Anderson, one of many educators and students to post reviews on the Skip Class Facebook page. “It’s another way for them to go out and get independent advice. … We can tell them all day long to come to class, but students tend to trust that kind of objective source much more.” [quoted fully from the original]
Anderson, like me, acknowledges that students “have to miss class sometimes.” But I go further and say that they don’t need the assistance of an idiotic internet toy to tell them when they should miss. Besides, very few of the “weightings” included in the SCC are valid reasons to skip. And once more, skipping is vastly different than missing.
Other news outlets have picked up on the story, including the venerable KQED. There, Tina Barseghian writes:
Who among us has not decided — for better or for worse — to forgo a lecture for an afternoon of productive studying, unavoidable appointments, or even just simple decompressing.
Barseghian must be a generous soul, because she has forgotten a host of reasons why students skip: boredom, laziness, immaturity, improper or misplaced feelings of self-importance and convictions of intelligence, insobriety, contempt, and so forth.
I suggest that any student missing class for an earnest “afternoon of productive studying” would not need the SCC to confirm to them that their actions are justified.