Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Q: Stupid or dumb? Dumb or stupid?

She is a poor, earnestly troubled soul asking me for help. The correct answer to one homework problem eludes her. Ah, the best part of my job - presenting the mysteries of the material world to curious minds! Half way through working out the

You know what? Screw the storytelling. She’s a senior in physical chemistry who can’t do freshman calculus. Sure, that means that she’s brighter than 99% of the world’s population but I don’t grade on that curve. She can’t do a simple calculation. (Here’s the equation. Solve it.) She "just doesn't get this math stuff." For a p-chem student, she’s pretty dumb.

How could she ever learn, she asks. She routinely gets C’s and some D’s in her major classes so this isn’t her first academic challenge. Well, you study, of course. The discussion devolves into me spouting all the advice that I give freshmen. Practice. Take notes. Do your homework. She gets a look on her face as if I’m revealing great secrets, like the season finale of Glee or something. Her epiphanic expression dissolves when she realizes that studying takes a lot of work.

“All I need is a D.” she says.

If you think that’s what you need, then you’re stupid too.

A: All of the above.


  1. Whenever I hear that "All I need is a D" line, I just want to say, "Hell, a D is easy. Don't worry; I can arrange it."

  2. I'm worried about the giving of 'D's. The problem isn't that I think the student is being rewarded. the problem is I think the student thinks it's acceptable, and is not motivated to do better. "D is for Diploma" is now a mantra for some students, and this is not good.

    The other thing I'm seeing that I'm surprised by is the segmentation of learning. I wouldn't be surprised if the student in the post had simply ejected all information about calculus once the course had finished, unconcerned she would need to use it again. Has anyone else seen that sort of thing? Is it new?

  3. I'm kind of surprised she can graduate with D's in her major. At all the schools i have gone to and been associated with (N of 3 so take it for what it's worth) have required a C at least within your major.

  4. @ Beaker Ben
    I would`ve waited until next class then announced: "I've actually been asked by a person I will not name if they can scrape by with a D. Because this person asked I will flunk them for the sheer temerity. In fact if I could, I would keep most of the people in this college out of it, either through a national draft or a youth levy to rebuild Russia and those Eastern European states badly damaged by the IMF, the World Bank, or the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia. Count yourselves lucky I can't sell you to the North Koreans as chattel labor, or force you to fight in Afghanistan, because let's face it you are not smart enough for college, even the A students. Everything you touch you turn to shit, and I hope that not even God has mercy on your souls. In short, fuck off, and goodbye."

    Then I would stride off, leaving the ditzy chicks in tears and the jock meatheads scratching their balls.

  5. Now THAT's quite the last lecture :o).

  6. This attitude always pisses me off, but it frightens me when people who have it major in fields where they could cause serious harm to people in their future careers. I don't know what your snowflake plans to do, but most of my STEM majors tend to be in areas where they'll be working with people medically, creating substances people will ingest, teaching, or designing important structures people will use.

    My favorite snowy snowflake who pulled this was an elementary ed major. She had come over from State U to take the class because it was cheaper. At midterm, I warned her she had missed too much class and too many assignments and had no chance of passing unless she started doing what the syllabus required. She did nothing until the end of the course, when she turned in the research paper and took the final. When I gave her the F I promised her, she became incensed and went to my chair saying she had earned enough points for the D and wanted it because that was all she "needed." That was true, but my CC also has an attendance policy, and I'm pretty sure that missing seven weeks of a sixteen-week term and doing only the midterm exam, final exam, and research paper does not merit a passing grade. My syllabus states that I enforce the policy and that students who've missed more than three weeks of class cannot pass.

    Luckily my chair backed me up and she retook the class. But the fact that a future teacher thought a D was sufficient still sends chills down my spine, and the fact that State U would have taken the D in transfer for her major pisses me off.


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