Tuesday, February 3, 2015

You can lead a horse to water...

Homework Problem:  What kind of pattern is depicted in the figure below? 

Re: Homework???
Dear Professor Wombat,

     I am having trouble with the homework.  It doesn’t seem to correlate with what is in the text.  Can we set up an appointment to meet during [sometime that has nothing to do with the office hours you gave us.  I know you explained what an adjunct does and you even mentioned that you are literally in a classroom an hour away, teaching a class at the precise time I requested an appointment]?

     Legally an adult, but incapable of wiping my own ass without a instructions

Dear Legally an adult,

      Hi.  Unfortunately, I am in class and/or at other colleges at times other than the times I set aside for office hours for your class.  I am looking at the textbook and the homework assignment side by side, and the information you need is definitely in there.  Please re-read the section on “patterns”, very carefully.  The answers you need are in there.  I will be available by e-mail later this evening, and again tomorrow afternoon.  After you give that section a [first look, but I played along and said “second look”], let me know if you still need help.


Hi.  I looked at that section and I don’t know what it has to do with this homework.  The homework definitely doesn’t correlate to the book.  Maybe instead of handouts you could give us questions from the book?

Hi, again.  That question IS from your book, I made copies because some people said the bookstore ran out of copies.  When you re-read the section, be sure to take note of the figure on page XYZ.  That should help.


Textbook figure:

Hi, prof.  This really doesn’t help me at all, I don’t know what these two things have to do with each other.  If you can’t make any office hours for us, I guess I’ll have to hire a tutor.

Good – the more money you waste on a tutor, the less you’ll have to pay your pot-dealer.  


  1. Count me among the stupid people. I have three advanced degrees and do not understand at all what's being asked.

    1. The answer is "subway". Or if the answer must in a sentence:

      The pattern depicted in the figure is called the Subway Pattern.

  2. That student sounds like many of the ones in the courses I taught. What scared me was that they were often allowed to graduate and found jobs in industry. Of course, that could explain many of my former bosses.....

  3. The only issue I see is that the question is way, way too easy; it doesn't require any actual thought, just the sort of matching that any preschooler should be able to handle.*

    And no, I'm not blaming you for assigning it, Wombat; the whole textbook-assessment-industrial complex trains students (well, most of them) to expect just such questions, and to consider the ability to answer them (with the book open, no less) "learning." Someone teaching multiple classes at multiple institutions is not in a position to try to change that.

    *I suppose the really, really charitable interpretation (which probably applies to Kimmie, if she isn't kidding, and/or didn't skip the part below the fold) is that the question is *so* simple that the student assumes that there must, somehow, be more to it. The extended exchange sort of nixes that idea, though.

    Most likely explanation: the student didn't buy the textbook (though why (s)he is encouraging questions from the book, then, I don't know. Maybe this section of the textbook is present in the Amazon/Google Books preview, or the last edition? ) The "threat" that (s)he'll have to hire a tutor is an attempt at guilt-inducing b.s.

    Other possible explanation: hir fraternity/sorority/student "success" group requires members to meet/interact with professors early in the semester, because that supposedly improves grades, and (s)he chose a really, really, stupid way to do it.

    1. Other explanation: the answer to that particular question isn't in the set of homework answers she bought/found on the internet.

  4. Replies
    1. As an undergraduate student tutor at the academic support center, I made minimum wage ($5.15 per hour at the time) and the college paid me, not the tutee, so s/he's still going to have more pot money.

      My guess is s/he won't even bother going to a tutor. If s/he does go, s/he will be late. If the tutor confronts him/her about this behavior, the tutor will be told that the tutor was late, NOT the tutee. Then s/he won't really listen and will never come back for more sessions. S/He will tell Professor Wombat that s/he went to a tutor (this is for brownie points), only to remark how his/her tutor is a mutton-head and s/she STILL can't figure the problem even though the tutor explained the problem and worked hard to make sure s/he understood.

    2. These people can't even find the tutoring center. When I was at Wolf359, the funding for the tutoring center was constantly in jeopardy because the students never came. Rather than get free help from their school, they would rather hire a private tutor, storm into the dean's office and demand to be reimbursed. What gets me about these people is that they can find their car keys, they can find their car, and they can find the ignition. But if you gave it to them as a homework assignment, they could not find the asshole on a hamster.

      My last words to my Transition to Hamsterology students were, "How do you people make it to class without getting killed?" I'm realizing that what I should have said instead was something like, "You are all alive here. You didn't get killed on your way to class. Obviously, you know what a red signal light means. Therefore, I flat refuse to believe that you are so stupid that you can't find an asshole on a hamster."

      There are ways to screen for these people but there are obvious problems:

      (i) concerns about that being discrimination (because you know, people like to create concerns)
      (ii) it would effectively screen out at least 70% of our enrollment
      (iii) money talks: low enrollment = less revenue

      I'm not even sure if the "non-profit" institutions have figured this one out either.

      Again, why do I keep having twinges of guilt for having left public academia?

      As an afterthought, I think I will join demonstrators at our local CC on Adjunct Walk-Out Day, as I have literally walked off the job I do not have any intent to return.

      When were kids, didn't we get told that if we wouldn't use the merry-go-round properly, that it would no longer be available?

      I used to be a merry-go-round.

  5. Pictures of bricks in walls...how does the first line of that song go?

    Best use of a label ever, btw.

  6. I thought they were basket weaving patterns!

  7. Jesus Christ. It's fucking subway tile. Even without the textbook, I can figure that out.

  8. Is it a metaphor? You're asking too much of us. This is TOO HARD. It's your fault.

    This person doesn't WANT to be helped. They just want you to tell them the answer. They'd rather waste your time in an attempt to get you to tell them the answer than actually fucking figure it out.