Hello, fellow Miserians,
A former reader of RYS, this is my first post on CM. My thanks to Those in Charge for the opportunity. Herewith, I immure myself in the misery.
Here's the question: Are students today feebler and sicker than past generations of human specimens? Has the general level of immune system robustness in our species suffered a dire change of which I'm unaware? In the past, a student here and there would miss an exam due to illness. Naturally. But missing was the exception, not the rule. Nowadays, missing is the rule, not the exception, and I almost faint from disbelief when all my students show up for an exam as they're supposed to. Last year I had a student who shattered all records by missing all three exams in the course. Since he provided what appeared to be proper medical notes, I had to offer re-writes. And my institution recommends (with good reason) creating altered make-up exams to thwart the passing of exam details between students -- extra work for me.
I wouldn't be able to make this observation except for my long years of teaching experience. I've been around enough to know that such things didn't always happen with the same frequency. That's a stone-cold fact. Is the explanation simply that contemporary students are less dutiful and persevering, that students of the past would have soldiered on despite catching unpleasant but ordinary bugs and so on? Are they more frequently scamming doctors into writing technically passable but thin notes (and if so, why are the doctors playing along)? Is it a harbinger of 2012?
Are you getting shafted this way, too?
We're also supposed to proved students who miss for a legitimate reason with a way to make up the lost points, but I found a way to do it without having to write extra exams. I just shift the value of any missed exam onto the (comprehensive) final. They don't even have to give me an excuse! Anyone who misses any exam, for any reason, just finds the final exam to be worth more. Some 'flakes unwisely take this as license to skip tests... talk about putting your eggs in one basket.ReplyDelete
I do like Wylodmayer...transfer the value of the missed requirement to the final. Although my university still requires a medical note to make any adjustments. Saves me all kinds of grief that I just don't want/need. Jeebus I'm glad I'm not teaching this semester!ReplyDelete
"Is the explanation simply that contemporary students are less dutiful and persevering..."ReplyDelete
I think this is true. There's a longtimer in our dept who says that he feels like he's had to set the bar a little lower every few years for there to be anyone to pass the darn finish line.
Hell yes. But that being said, I had a perfectly good immune system, or so I thought, before I got to college myself, and then I spent literally 3 years of it almost too ill to be there at all, from 2 or 3 major problems. My immune system hasn't been the same since, and now I look at all those bright eyed undergrads like they should have a hovering balloon with their viral load and white cell count over their heads as a warning to me.ReplyDelete
Does anyone think also maybe hygiene has plummeted? I mean personal hygiene, not obsessive hand sanitizing.
As an aging second-string Boomer, my answer has to be an unequivocal Yes--if our students got any more fragile, I think they'd devolve into overripe bananas before our very eyes. Having been told to "Snap out of it" or "Go play on the freeway" enough times to get it into our muscle memories (and immune systems!), my peers and I have insisted that our children grow up learning the finer points of shutting off the tube/screen/player/whatever, playing in the dirt, and bruising, scraping, gashing and whatnot wherever possible. The result is fewer doctor bills and much less narcissism.ReplyDelete
No, but society has gotten better at pathologizing various discomforts, and their upper-middle class families have figured out that if you have the right doctor you can exploit that development to create an advantage for little precious.ReplyDelete
Anecdotally, when I moved from big state U in the west to vastly overpriced private U in the east, the number of doctor's notes for various conditions, real or imagined, skyrocketed (actually, I don't think I can recall even one such note back at the last job). Just another way for the upper-classes to game the system.
Of course it is a mixed bag, since some percentage of these kids to have something wrong with them (well, they all have something wrong with them, but that's a different story).
Hmmm, well, as we're poisoning the planet, it's entirely possible that our immmune systems are shot. God knows mine is.ReplyDelete
Wylodmayer, that is an excellent idea! Right now I just give comprehensive, essay makeup exams because I don't do true final exams in most classes. Usually, they are just last tests. I have been reconsidering this plan of attack, though.ReplyDelete
Wylodmayer, I concur. Excellent idea.ReplyDelete
I notice my freshmen are more sickly than their elder peers, a fact I generally attribute to their encounters with a new disease environment and to the novelty of unregulated time.
I was sick as hell my second year of undergrad with something undiagnosable (lupus? mono? Lyme disease?). My solution...strangely...was to withdraw from a class to reduce my course load.
I also wonder how much the sickness is related to parental notions of...well...life in general. My father regularly regaled us with the "Your great-grandparents walked across the ocean barefoot twice to start a booming business in a small town for no apparent reason and you CANNOT wuss out, you spoiled little shits" story. I suspect that most of my snowflakes are not hearing similar tales. We were also allowed to do stuff like shoot guns (!!!) and eat wild game (!!!) and ride bikes without training wheels and swim in lakes full of goose poop and eat berries / leaves we picked in the woods and periodically fall down the stairs...
...in between combing the carpet fringe on the living room rug because our mum was a bit uptight that way.
I sometimes tell my students stories from my childhood and as my fat keeps me looking young, they assume this childhood took place in the not-so-distant past. Then they ask me if I was abused.
Shifting the weight of the missed exam to a comprehensive final exam is a good idea, and I know people who do it, but I haven't typically given comprehensive final exams. However, I'm starting to give final exams that contain a modest comprehensive element in part to thwart what in my part of the world is called an aegrotat final grade -- a final grade based on the completion of (depending on the institution) as little as 50% of the course work (e.g., only two out of four mandatory exams). I don't give aegrotats (it's discretionary), but I recently experienced great administrative pressure to give one. Why do I oppose aegrotats? Simple example: Imagine undergoing emergency surgery in which the last words you hear from your surgeon before you go under are, "Well, I completed *most* of the course work in Anatomy 101 . . .".ReplyDelete
Yes, indeed, as a few of you point out, I also think that some students who should drop a course etc. foolishly don't do so. In other words, they're sometimes persevering in the wrong way.ReplyDelete
Heck, I took a midterm with pneumonia one time and suffered through numerous bouts of strep throat. All the while I never said anything, never asked for a doctor's note, and just plowed through my work because it was expected of me. Now today kid's take a week off because the poor little snowflake has the sniffles. Boo hoo. I had to change around my attendance policy to give more allowance for sick days. I do not accept doctor's notes unless it is a true emergency (e.g., heart attack). It still amazes me when they show up with the note from their pediatrician (!) that the poor dear had a tummy ache. Grow a pair will you! And you wonder why we don't treat you like adults.ReplyDelete
I gave up altering the tests for makeups about 15 years into my career (although I might alter the header), once I discovered that students who used lots of excuses to take mulutiple tests late NEVER passed the tests anyway.ReplyDelete
I think BlackDog is on to something. The current generation is not weaned on stories of toughness and perseverance, they are weaned on stories of how their parents fought against and changed genuinely unfair conditions. A kind of perseverance, to be sure, but, when used as a model for how to respond to what they PERCEIVE as unfair and unreasonable burdens, one that, without a doubt, prompts a radically different response.ReplyDelete
Plus, they're all wusses and little whiny shits.
I don't give make up tests either. We have four tests throughout the semester. Students can have their cumulative score on Tests 1-4 or their score on the final (same point value as the first four together), whichever is higher. Works great. Miss a test? Don't worry, you can take the final if you're unhappy with your test total!ReplyDelete