Field of Science

Student Editorial and Missing the Point of College

Today represents an awakening for me. I was browsing the student newspaper and came across the following editorial: 'Professors owe us study guides'. My first thought was 'what the hell!', but I quickly remembered that titles are generally not written by the authors. So I decided to read the thing, I suggest you do the same. I'll wait. Sorry if you're now thinking Trump is a good choice, not my fault it was the editorial writer's.

The author starts out reasonably enough "With midterms in full swing, many of us at the University of Minnesota have been studying diligently to prepare for our exams. As these assessments often represent a large percentage of our grades, it’s very important to do well on them." It's good to hear that you are studying diligently, seems appropriate being that you're an adult in college and all. But there's already a whiff of something problematic, the focus on the grade. Yes grades are important and you should want to do well on your work in order to obtain good grades. However, grades in and of themselves are a means to an end, they are not the end.

The problem is manifest in the third and fourth sentences, which encompass the entire second paragraph. "But there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to study every little tidbit of information you’ve learned since the start of the semester. It simply isn’t going to happen, especially because students often have more than one midterm exam.
" There is so much fail embodied in this, I can't even. First, if you are studying every little tidbit of information, then you probably never spent any time during your education to think about teachers and professors and tests, quizzes, exams to realize that people have personalities and to use this information to strategically study. Is something emphasized over and over (probably a good idea to study it), was something highlighted as important, meaningful, or a key point (probably a good idea to study it). Was something mentioned once as a brief aside, maybe in response to a question (probably not worth spending much if any time studying). As this is spring, almost certainly this semester represents at least the second semester the editorial writer has been at the University of Minnesota (there's a small possibility they just transferred in). Second, we actually know that students have mid-terms around the same time. It's weird, because at the end of a semester there's this thing called 'finals week,' where all the professors schedule exams over a few days, but none of us know the others do the same thing. Third, I hate to tell you this but it does happen. Maybe not with you, but many students do learn a lot of material. I know I've given out the A's to prove it. I've written letters of recommendation for students with 3.85 GPAs. Just because you cannot be bothered or feel like it's too much of a burden, well WAH. But here this is just for you:

Fourth, you need to realize that it is a University of Minnesota policy that on average a student should expect to spend three hours a week per credit of class. So a three credit class means ~ 9 hours of week of in class and out of class work. Maybe some weeks you work 5 hours, exam shows up and you work 10 hours, your average is still less than 9 hours a week. And to be clear that three hour average/credit is for the average student to receive an average grade aka a C. You want a better grade, you should expect to work more hours on average. (Now might be a good time to wash your hair again.)

For full disclosure, I know many classes expect much less work than this. But these classes are in fact screwing you over. My primary class, which I uniformly have received excellent student evaluations for. students note how much work the class is and ask that the credit load be increased because it's so much work. However, most students that note the work also fill in the 6 - 9 hours/week  on the scantron (for my 3 credit class). Realize that a full credit load of 15 credits, represents slightly more than a full-time job commitment (45 hours)!

Ok that deals with the generic dome-a-dozen complaint about studying (you're not in high school anymore). This really isn't more than what is complained about every single year. My problem is with what comes afterwards "
Study guides help students to focus their efforts and weed out concepts that won’t be on the exam. This can save a huge amount of time. Not to mention, by ignoring the concepts that won’t be tested, we can spend more time on those we’re expected to know, increasing our understanding of the material and, hopefully, our test scores."

The arrogance of those twisted sentences represents much that is wrong with the approach students have towards a college education. Some, like this letter writer, consider college an extension of high school. It's something they have to do and is mostly a waste of time. I thought much of high school was a waste of time, but that was because I didn't know any better. The difference is that I was required to get an education through the 12th grade, or at least it was a serious issue to drop-out and not something that could be simply accomplished. Not so, with college. There's no law requiring post-K-12 education. I realize to get many jobs a college education is required even if in reality it isn't. But you know what, many jobs, including good jobs, do not require a four year degree.

Let me explain something to our entitled editorial writer and those who agree with them. What we teach in class is important or at least it is considered important by an expert or experts in the field. Courses have to be approved by a committee based on what the learning objectives are and how they will be presented and how they will be assessed. To adequately test someone on their grasp of the material, it usually means your are asking focused questions on specific areas. Because something isn't on the test does NOT mean it is not important to know or needed for subsequent classes. You are not in college to take the fucking tests and I apologize that the ACT/SAT companies, politicians, and standardized testing has you thinking it is. You are correct, if we tell you what to study so you can vomit it back to us, you will get better grades more easily. That isn't the fucking point. Also, how can you suggest that if you spend more time studying fewer things, you will increase your understanding of the material. No, you will not, you will only know a part of the material well and even then probably only well enough to recognize words on a multiple choice exam.

"Not all professors allow students the luxury of having study guides, however. As someone who cares tremendously about my grades, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to study extra information that’s not part of an assessment. The less information I have to worry about knowing, the better I’ll learn it and be able to recall it in the future." See you should not be at a university. I'm sure you're smart, at least from a standardized testing every child in the community regardless of proficiency goes high school standpoint. But you are missing the point (that sound you just heard, that was the point flying by). The point of college is not your grade. Sorry, it's true, time to grow up. You care tremendously about your grade, no mention of knowledge or understanding. Simply your grade. Truly the writer makes me weep and gnash my teeth simultaneously.

I especially love this thought: the less I have to learn, the better I'll be able to learn it. Well no shit Sherlock, no fucking shit. It's kind of like asking for a raise and justifying it by saying I can buy more stuff. Also, if recall is your goal, you're doing it wrong. Life is not, I repeat (because it might be on the exam) not a fucking multiple choice test.

Finally we end with, "For these reasons, I think it’s incredibly important for the University to require professors to provide students with comprehensive study guides. Each individual college could delegate specific guidelines, but the policy should encompass the entire University." Well letter writer let me end with a comprehensive guideline for my upcoming exam: T, F, T, T, B, C, C, A, E, D, D, and more than 14.