From the File

Student I Insisted Go To A Larger Graduate Program Than Ours: Dear Professor Zero, This is just to say my new university is not as scary as I thought it would be. My students listen to me! My professors know you! I find I am already familiar with the books and reading lists! I guess I really am prepared!

Student I Failed In A Basic Course: Dear Professor Zero, You are of course entitled to your opinion of my performance, but I am confident that my level of mastery of this material meets or exceeds national standards.

Of course the prepared one thought they weren’t, and the unprepared one thought they were.


5 thoughts on “From the File

  1. There is a similar correlation between the most serious students addressing faculty formally, even when asked to use the first name, and the least serious students addressing faculty informally without an invitation. Or so it seems to me.

    What are these national standards you speak of?

  2. There are national standards for achievement in foreign languages … we have a rule that if they don’t hit a certain performance level on these charts, they can’t pass … I am not certified officially to judge this, but I do in fact know how … if they don’t believe me, they can take a test … this student went ahead and took the test, and failed. Of course…

  3. Funny, my experience is exactly the opposite of Historiann’s. I suggest pistols at dawn for our dueling interpretation biases.

    Re: the cognitive dissonance of the unprepared, you’re really on to something here. Rex did a nice post at Savage Minds a while back on the topic ( He focuses on the productive gap between taste and achievement, missing in low performers, and notes that “people who do mediocre work have some mixture of low standards, low energy, unambitious goals, and a high opinion of their abilities. People who do good work have high standards, work hard, stay hungry, and are all too aware of what the work demands and what they are capable of.”

  4. That’s a good post and it’s grist for my mill about how “lowering standards” and “resisting perfectionism” is NOT good for one’s inspiration levels. And thanks for reminding us all of Savage Minds, which I do not visit enough!

    Formality/informality: for me, informality from someone I don’t know is a bad sign – trouble ahead – and I’ve found that sudden formality from someone I do know means the same.

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