Prolegomena to a Memo (Tentatively Entitled “Dear University Student, Memo #101”)

You cannot win an argument with, and you should not waste time trying to bring to reason or cure irrationality, I have often been told. It took me a long time to actually learn this although I finally did recently. In the intervening decades I listened politely to and tried to translate to reason the discourses of irrational persons, which was very frustrating.

People who are hiding things from me and/or from themselves are frustrating in a related way. Some examples from this week are:

+ Students who are enrolled in my course with the intention of failing. They cannot drop because they need to receive financial aid, or they are graduating and believe I will give them a D. They keep asking for “help” but when I tell them help will be they do homework in an organized way and I and others tutor them they simply sit and do not respond. It is as though they were sitting in for a grade.

+ Students who are enrolled in my course with the intention of getting a D. They passed the prerequisites with Ds, and the cumulative effect of that is that they are in no position to make even a D in this course. But they are hoping for a D because this course fulfills a requirement for them.

+ Students who allege they have the prerequisites for my course but do not, and are enrolled in it because they are hoping to pass anyway. This course fulfills a requirement for them and the prerequisites do not. They feel they have a right to take the course without its prerequisites therefore, and that I can to teach the background they need in office hours. They know they should not admit that, however, so they say they have in fact taken the prerequisites.

+ Students who expected my course in my main department to be easier for them than my course in my other department, because the course in my main department is in their native language.

+ Students who, after I explain painstakingly what the weaknesses of their paper are (the main weakness is, they wrote it very quickly and did not revise it) and what its strengths are, ask why they do not have an A and what they can do to get one.


6 thoughts on “Prolegomena to a Memo (Tentatively Entitled “Dear University Student, Memo #101”)

  1. What about this one: “Try assuming that I’ve read the background material, won’t you?” from a student who wants to disagree with your perspective and to be “respected” for it. It doesn’t matter if they don’t actually reveal the basis for their thinking, but it really matters if you don’t respect that they could possibly have read something on the topic (although there is no evidence for that).

  2. Yes, that’s another bad one although I haven’t had anyone say it to me directly _this_ term. I do note that the general public, especially the Republican / Christian, believes in fake research / propaganda as background material and does not trust standard sources including, in one case I had last year, the OED.

  3. Hi Brandon! OED lists more than one meaning per word which is “confusing” and suggests that meaning is complex, interpretation may be difficult, there may not be just one easy, simple, correct answer to everything.

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