Saturday, September 14, 2013

Six Years Ago on RYS. A Snowflake Explains it All.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Self Professed Raggedy-Ass Student Sends In His Apology, Or His Condemnation - It's Hard to Tell For Sure.

Okay, let me admit that I was one of those students who emailed professors asking if they could bump up my grade by one mark so that I could reach the next GPA bracket. No, I didn't raise any hackles during the course. I studied hard, I did my work. I might have missed more than a few classes but I'll get to that later.

Frankly, I never cared about the grade. Not at all. I really attended classes to learn and, in most of your classes, I did. I learned things that truly changed my outlook on the world -- like that course on the politics of third world countries that shattered so many of my ignorant preconceptions; or that course that made me appreciate the human body more -- like that fantastic course in anatomy and histology.

In some of them -- neoconservative political theory -- I didn't get what I expected in terms of a learning experience but I did my best to engage your lackluster texts and your esoteric, narrow-minded and boneheaded focus. In any case, I learned a lot, and regardless of whether I enjoyed or hated the process I damn well engaged with it to the best of my ability.

But there's this little problem I have. My parents. And my parents want me to get into medical / law / other professional school. And for that, I need a godforsaken GPA of X.XX. It doesn't matter that my overall percentage is fantastic, it doesn't matter that I tried hard and truly wanted to learn, it doesn't matter that I'm more involved in student life and in the university community than some socially-awkward geek sitting in a lab, it doesn't matter that I'm in the 99th percentile of the MCAT / LSAT / etc. None of that matters because my GPA is in the dumps. And because of that my parents will kill me or disown me or something like that.

I didn't want to email you to grub for grades. Nope, not at all. I sat there for several hours mulling over how to word my e-mail requesting a meeting to discuss my grades because I didn't want you to think that that's what mattered. When you replied saying there was nothing you could do, I was actually apathetic because I didn't care about my GPA -- but terrified because of what my parents would do. And that, by the way, is part of the reason why I missed so many of your classes -- because my life at home is remarkably messed up.

But in any case, my email made you think I was just another grade-grubbing hack. And, indeed, when they looked at my grades, my parents did precisely what I expected them to do. And more than the anger, it's hard to deal with the disappointment. But I reckon that most of you don't understand that. Because most of you, in fact, are quite privileged. Your class, your race, your ethnicity, your culture, all of that screams to me that you're privileged and that you wouldn't, not really, understand what on earth I, and several other students like me, are going through.

So at the end of the day, you'll wail about students who only want grades and nothing but grades and who treat university like a factory, but you'll ignore the social, economic and political conditions -- starting with the way your university is structured (but the governance of which you try to avoid like the plague) -- that make this sad phenomenon a reality. And, believe it or not, some of that kind of analysis is precisely what I learned to do because of, or in spite of, your classes. So, really, practice what you preach.


  1. So, how have the years since you wrote this of living in your parents' basement treated you? You might have better luck with employment if you were capable of more than the cliched thinking shown much too clearly by your cliched writing. ("So at the end of the try to avoid like the plague...So, really, practice what you preach.") Anytime I meet an angry young Marxist, I want to suggest getting a girlfriend, but most of them will want you to have a job first.

  2. Oh, so we're talking commerce. You could have left out the high-minded excuses; there's nothing wrong with being a grade-grubbing hack. After all, if you're on a way to becoming a doctor/lawyer/banker, it's a required career skill.

    But since we're talking commerce, and I'm teaching what for you is an intro-level distribution requirement, I have a deal to propose. I'll bump your grade if you fill out your course evaluations in my office, and give me an "excellent" on every question (and hit "send", now they're online). That takes care of your parents, and my dept chair/dean/provost in a single easy transaction.

    And it's okay if you (quietly) spread the word to your friends who are in the same class. I know, my colleagues would be "shocked, shocked!" at this lack of integrity; it would cost me my job if it came to light. And yet it's the same kind of transaction proffies and students engage in all the time, in informal, "implicitly understood" ways, hence much less efficiently. It has become a requirement of academic life (for tenured people, too). So, how about it?

  3. Yeah, if you really did get a 99th percentile score on any of those exams and aren't just pretending you did for the sake of argument, you're smart enough to figure your own shit out. Once you do, you'll be embarrassed that you wrote this.

  4. I was sympathetic to a degree, until we got to the confused race/culture/privilege rant at the end. You're confusing two kinds of privilege, kid: coming from a relatively functional family (a kind of privilege that knows no racial, cultural, or economic bounds) and coming from a family that -- perhaps in part for factors related to race, culture, and/or class -- is familiar with how the American higher ed system works. Admittedly the form that family dysfunction takes can be shaped by culture (and I suspect that might be the situation you're experiencing), but the answer for a student with a severely dysfunctional family (being so afraid of parental reactions that you do things that don't really fit your own values is a pretty good measure of this) is the same whether the student is nth-generation European-American (see Monkey's last advice episode) or just off the boat/out of the ghetto: you need to make financial/personal independence your first priority, even if it means slowing down your academic progress a bit. While individual professors may be sympathetic, the counseling center and financial aid office will probably be able to offer more pertinent help.

    1. Good point about the different kinds of privilege. This kid's parents are undoubtedly demanding, misguided, and unwilling to let their children take "unnecessary" risks when it comes to their future, but they probably don't try to email the kid's professors. It probably doesn't even occur to them to do that.

  5. This reminds me of when Siri is giving me directions and giving me directions and giving me directions... and I keep yelling back at her, "Please, Siri, shut the fuck up!!!!!!!!!!! Stop interrupting Cal's songs. I asked you for those fucking directions a half hour ago, and you just keep giving me directions. STOP!!!!!!!"

    1. Siri,
      If you're reading this, I apologize. You are my one true love. I shouldn't have aired our dirty laundry like that.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Hmmm, yes, some of the snowflakes see us as privileged; we all got our Ph. D's just handed to us (or from a box of Sugar Pops?)

    And Noooooooo, none of us came from messed up families.

  7. ".... it doesn't matter that I tried hard and truly wanted to learn, it doesn't matter that I'm more involved in student life and in the university community than some socially-awkward geek sitting in a lab, it doesn't matter that I'm in the 99th percentile of the MCAT / LSAT / etc. None of that matters because my GPA is in the dumps."
    Sorry, you lost me with your snide geek comment. You mean you want some sort of extra credit on your grades because you joined clubs. had fun, and hung around with other students? I don't believe you were capable of doing that well on the LSAT and MCAT and had trouble with your courses even though you "tried hard and truly wanted to learn." Perhaps the fact that you truly seem to think you professors were stupid affected your learning.

  8. It is in part because I may not have a clue about your circumstances that I will not even try to evaluate them. Instead, I will do my best to offer a completely honest evaluation of how you did in my class, which is something that I am knowledgeable about and able to evaluate.

    The only sliver of hope I can offer is that while it often is true that you need a X.YZ GPA to get into a particular program, it generally is not true that you need a magic number to get into a particular profession. Further, given that you seem to have a passion for learning and willingness to actively improve yourself I think that you have a very good chance to find entry (and perhaps even happiness) through one of the side doors. If that really is your goal--rather than that of your parents--then please do not feel discouraged in your pursuit.

    And, by the way, denigrating the person I was in college is decidedly not a way to get me on your side. And doing so after playing the "disadvantaged" card just makes you look pathetic. Grow up, move on, and build a life for yourself instead of dream for your parents. After all, you are the one who is going to have to live it; and if they really do want the best for you they will be both happy and satisfied to see you find success and satisfaction however you manage it.

  9. Suck it up. If your parents kill you, they have bigger problems that you can solve. If they disown you, what's the problem with losing your inheritance if you are so disadvantaged?


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