Monday, May 13, 2013

Why We Won't be Stopping the Near Term Extinction (NTE): And Why My Students Make Me Want to Cheer on the Big Cull

Each semester, when I teach English 102, my department requires I give a final. I don't like finals. The research paper at the end is final enough. So, I take pains to give them a freebie. That's right. The class before the final, I give them the answers. I write the questions on the board. I then point to the page in the book which contains the exact example I want them to use. I tell them that this is an open notes test. If you copy the examples I point to exactly into your notes and then copy them exactly into the test, you will get a perfect score.

There are nine questions. I've given them the answers. The only other requirement, which I make explicit and write on the board during the test, is that they must write in complete sentences. I feel that is only fair given that this is an English class.

And, every single semester for the past nine years, at least one student fails the final. I mean they show up and fail. Not, I'm hung over and can't give enough of a shit to show up fail, but they show up with notes in hand and fail.

The first time it happened, I was knocked sideways several feet into a new less pleasant dimension. Then it happened again and again. I began to paranoically believe that perhaps they were doing it on purpose, but my colleagues pointed out their thunderous ignorance and stupidity. (I had an entire class of college students who did not know who Hitler was, really.) At times I forget that oh-so-salient point and fall back to a position where I believe that students are in college because they deserve to be, because they are smart or some such nonsense. But reality drags me back.

Anyway, just hours ago, I gave the last final of 102 and just minutes ago finished grading the final. The score. Three failures. Two Ds. I still get the urge to snatch one of the cretins up by the collar and shout, spit flying into their face, "What the fuck are you thinking?"

But, of course, they are not thinking. These are the future nurses, doctors, engineers, and TV producers who will one day, when they are about to be culled for a cannibalistic feast, think to themselves, didn't Mr. Davies say something about this? Actually, no, I didn't. You were, in fact, watching Dawn of the Dead on your phone during class.