Thursday, November 17, 2005

And now, they plead for an "F"...

A student from my history course appeared at my office yesterday with an odd request: "Could you give me an 'F,' please?"

She looked a bit nervous, which puzzled me. Why the nervousness if she wanted an "F"?

I asked her name and looked at her attendance. She'd missed the past five lectures and hadn't handed in her thesis statement.

"You don't plan to turn in an essay?" I asked.


"Then," I observed, "why would you expect anything but an 'F'?"

"Some professors give a 'D' or a 'C' instead," she said.

"And those are worse than an 'F'?" I asked.

"Yes," she explained, "because an 'F' doesn't count."

"What do you mean?"

"An 'F' doesn't appear on the transcript," she clarified.

"I see. Then," I concluded, "an 'F' doesn't mean anything."

She agreed, and we sat in silence for a moment, which I broke by observing, "Well, if I had a position of power, I would change that policy. An 'F' should mean something. It should mean failure. Anyway, I assign grades that students earn. You've earned an 'F,' so you'll get an 'F.'"

She looked relieved and thanked me.

Students: an "F" for "Fantasy"

University: an "F" for "Folly"
Students imagine a world without consequences, and the university foolishly confirms their fantasy.


At 12:51 AM, Blogger Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

Here at Troy, we have two failing grades: F and FA. F is the standard failure, FA is failure due to absence. I'm told that FA counts toward the GPA as a drop-pass.

Nevertheless, students who have earned an FA will come in and beg for an "F". When I explain to them that the FA, which they earned, is less damaging than the F to their GPA, they always respond, "Yes, but my dad/mom will kill me!"

With the F, students can dig into their excuse bag: "The prof hates me," "the subject was too hard," "I was under a lot of stress," etc. With FA, all they can do is admit that they were too lazy or hung over to drag their sorry selves to class.

At first I didn't like the FA -- I thought it a "fantasy" grade. Now that I see how it works, I use it as a punative grade to try to slap the laziest students awake.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I guess that the moms and dads are paying for the education of these kids that you teach.

That's probably the case here, too, but Korean parents might get angry at me if I punished their kids, for most people still think of the university years as a time to relax after the hard high-school years.

Nevertheless, I'm tempted to give my F students a D, now that I've been clued in to what's happening.


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