Forum… Or Against ’em

By Count Friedrich von Olsen
My recent exchange with my friend, John Kalita, a professor of history, has me fearing for the impoverishment of the American educational system. John has an undergraduate degree in history from Fullerton University, an M.A. at Fullerton and a Ph.D. from Claremont. He has taught at 25 different colleges, U.C.L.A., Dominguez Hills, Cal Poly, Fullerton and Long Beach among them, and 17 community colleges. He told me a bevy of horror stories about the diminution in academic standards. I have space here only for a few, which I pass along with the hope that they might resonate with some salutary effect…
He tells me that he was teaching a course at L.A. City College – European History through 1789. Some 60 students signed up for the class and showed up for the first class. Upon hearing that there was going to be written work as part of the coursework, something like a dozen dropped the class on the spot. After three-and-a-half months, 16 students were left. Six showed up for the final. The ten who missed the final also failed to turn in term papers. All six who showed up for the final passed, with a collective average of about 80 percent. John felt compelled to flunk the ten who failed to take the final or do the term paper. John is now on the verge of losing his teaching position because he had the temerity of flunking those who would not perform academically…
Another one of John’s students, a young lady in another class, came to him in a panic as the semester was nearing an end. It seems, she was aware she was on the verge of flunking because she had not completed a book report. John gave her a break and let here turn in the work late. When she did so, John flunked her. He was summoned into the the dean’ of students office. The dean was rather upset. She wanted to know why John had flunked the young lady. After all, the dean said, the student had completed the book report and now she was threatening both suicide and a lawsuit. John told me he told the dean that the problem was that the book report consisted of a word-for-word reproduction of the narrative contained on the book’s dust jacket. The dean said that John had to be understanding because this was simply an act of “inadvertent plagiarism….”
One further example he gave pertained to several members of an athletic team who were taking the same class. They turned in the same term paper. When asked why, they said, “We’re on the football team and as teammates we have synchronized thoughts. We all thought the same words at the same time…”
John says he now routinely tells his students that the first tip on not getting a flunking grade is to not turn in a paper that concludes “copyright Wikipedia 2017…”
“Students today are not in school to get the most they can out of taking the class,” John said. “They are interested only in trying to see how much work they can get out of while taking the class…”

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