Students don’t need babysitters, thanks

by Joe Stewart

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When I consider how I earn my grades in class, I often think of putting in hours of study and research to prove my retention of the knowledge through papers, quizzes and tests. I don’t, however, consider my ability to show up something of merit.

We’ve all had classes where the professor takes attendance. Many of these professors actually make attendance a portion of your grade, sometimes as much as 10 to 15 percent. But, by mandating the students’ presence, the professor is stifling intellectual curiosity and making the pursuit of education equal to punching a clock. I used to punch a clock. It was not a rewarding experience.

On the contrary, the best classes I’ve had were with professors who make it clear that everything I would need to know would be posted on Blackboard, including notes and lectures, and that attendance would not be mandatory.

In these classes, I never see uninterested students perusing Facebook or texting on a cell phone. These are the classes where you find only captivated students in their seats. These are the classes in which discussion is thought-provoking. Strangely, it seems, these classes that don’t require attendance are the only ones I never miss.

What is the endgame of a professor who grades with attendance? Is it truly for my best interest? Is it to ensure a firm grasp of the material? Or is it a means of holding my hand and passively telling me I’m not responsible enough to manage my own time? I already have a mother, thank you. She did her job well and I don’t need another.

I won’t argue that attending class isn’t necessary to receive a well-rounded education. It is. There is a reason traditional universities are more highly regarded than online institutions.

But there are many of us who regard our undergraduate experience as the beginning of our educational journey. The degree of competitiveness to enter a first-tier or second-tier graduate school requires much more than just good grades and high test scores. Your application has to show you’re a well-rounded student who is actively involved in both organizations and the community. Along with that, many current undergraduate students must work to support themselves as well.

With all of these demands placed on the driven student who would clearly be keeping up on studies and assignments, it becomes disheartening to fall victim to a professor who feels the need to babysit.

Maybe professors employ this policy for students who wouldn’t otherwise come to class. But the students who cannot effectively manage their time or acknowledge and fulfill their responsibilities probably should not be in the university to begin with.

Regardless, being in class is not going to guarantee passing grades. There is a far greater level of commitment to learning than simply showing up. This is why people with degrees make far more money than those spending 40 hours per week doing what they’re told.

Should professors take attendance? There are many good reasons to say yes. But the difference of a letter grade for a student is not one of them.

I have been at San Diego State since Fall 2009 with demanding extra-curricular activities and work schedules, and I’ve had very few classes where I attended more than 60 or 70 percent of lectures. I have also maintained a GPA greater than a 3.0 and, from the number of outstanding individuals I have met on this campus, I believe there are many who can and have done the same.

Our scholastic achievement is not to be dependent on grading scales and pop quizzes devised to incentivize attendance. Allow students to prove they can, or learn the ability to, manage their own time and schedules. Focus instead on gauging a student’s understanding and ability to articulate the material he or she is responsible for. After all, the working world will expect far more from us than just an ability to show up.

—Joe Stewart is a journalism senior.

—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.

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