‘Why do I have an F?’

“Why do I have an F?” ask community college students who aren’t coming to class and doing the assigned work. “They want extra credit, chances to make up tests, magic points that appear out of nowhere just because they asked,” writes a remedial English instructor.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Some community colleges don’t participate in federal loan programs, saying students can pay the low tuition on their own and avoid debt.  Should all students have the right to access loans?

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    My wife recently retired from a middle-class suburban high school. There was strong admin pressure to allow make-ups with multiple chances.
    Apparently the CC didn’t tell the frosh that there’s a different regime. Or, if they did, the frosh took it as meaning as little as such pronouncements in HS.

  2. It’s amazing how such students fail to understand “cause and effect.” Even if you stress the need for study and homework outside of class, they seem to think they’re the exception to that rule.

    Sadly, many of them also labor under the illusion that even though they’ve bombed nearly all the tests in the semester, somehow they’re going to ace the final and walk away with a “C” or better. Sorry, kid – if you didn’t understand the material a few weeks ago, you’re not going to magically understand it at crunch time.

  3. It makes me sad- and frustrated – to have a student come in for the first time to see me during the last week of class, and tell me, “I really need a B in this class” (or whatever), when they are at a point where that can’t happen, not even with a 100 on the final.

    I want to ask them, “Where were you when you made a 58 on the first exam and I suggested people who were concerned about their grades come to see me to find out if there’s something they need help with?” I don’t, though, because I think doing so would get me branded as “mean.”

    I figure in a certain percent of the cases, “I really need a B” means “give me enough extra credit slackerwork so I can earn enough points to get a B.”

  4. Cranberry says:

    The students have been taught to behave this way.

  5. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I completely agree with what Cranberry said on this. This is learned behavior.

    I’d also like to elaborate a little on the phenomenon. When a student has not been allowed to fail, they will learn that failure isn’t something that can happen. When a college professor gives them an F, the result is confusion.

    Unfortunately, failure *is* something that can happen, regardless of the attitude one takes towards it in primary and secondary school. It happens with devastating results, sometimes. Now, school is supposed to be a place where you can fail without devastating consequences, where you can learn from your failures and become better at things, but failure in school is often seen these days as a devastating consequence itself. (e.g., YOU RUINED MY CHANCE TO GET INTO HARVARD!)

    That’s a problem. Certification should be the secondary mission of schools, not the primary mission.

  6. The first time I took Ancient Greek I passed the first quarter by the skin of my teeth and then failed gloriously in the second. (The prof only gave A’s, B+, and B’s. Anything else was an “F”. He said my 81% wasn’t sufficient to continue.)

    At the time I was hurt, angry and depressed. BUT for the first time in my life, I’d found a class I couldn’t pass unless I actually WORKED at it.

    I studied over the summer, retook the class the next year, realized that, when I actually LEARNED the material, I loved it, and ended up a classics major.

    My only regret is that I had to wait until I was 18 to be failed at something. It was life changing, and in a good, wake up call, you’re not getting babied from here on out sort of way.

  7. Foobarista says:

    This is something the “Big Test” models in East Asia handle better than we do in the West. As long as you do well on the Big Test, you can learn and experiment in school and not have one bad grade wreck your life. Of course, one bad grade on the Big Test _will_ determine your life path, but not everyone can get into the top schools.

    Also, scores on the “Big Test” can’t be gamed or inflated. You perform or you’re out.

  8. Mark Roulo says:

    “As long as you do well on the Big Test, you can learn and experiment in school and not have one bad grade wreck your life.”

    I do not get the impression that the Asian kids and parents treat K-12 schooling less casually and as a place to “experiment” because only the Big Test matters. To the contrary, because everything appears to come down to a one test at the end of high school (and the perception is that a better high school, which *also* may have a single entrance examination, helps you score well on the Big Test), the experimentation and learning for its own sake isn’t really encouraged.