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Subject:Re: Tech writer's test From:Kris Olberg <KJOlberg -at- AOL -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 20 Dec 1995 15:44:34 -0500
In a message dated 95-12-19 18:06:12 EST, ibbetson -at- IDIRECT -dot- COM (David
>If I'd complained to the UK equivalent of the dean's office, I'd have been
>shown the door.
>The professor, like the umpire, is always right.
But without complaint comes implicit approval. You're right, though; those in
charge probably make their decisions based on factors unknown to you, and not
always in your best interest. Even if you are paying the bill.
I'd like to relate something that happened to me in college. The example
below serves three purposes: (1) to underscore my point (and David's) above
that the student does not always come first, and (2) to refute point #1 and
remind teachers of any subject that their students are there to learn, not to
meet the needs, whatever they may be, of the instructor, and (3) to remind
instructors to design test materials, especially those used for grading
purposes, that test the skills learned in class, fairly and without any
I attended the University of Minnesota, an institution respected for research
and highly funded because of it. The class was a senior-level math course
called Group Theory. The teacher was an associate professor who had
experience teaching graduate courses only. The 15 or so students were a mix
of undergraduate math majors (including me) and graduate students.
Now, math professors tend to be a bit off level, so we weren't surprised with
and mainly ignored his daily onslaught of insults at our ability, our level
of interest, etc. We toughed it out silently until about the sixth week, just
shortly after our only exam, a mid-term worth one-half our final grade.
Someone mentioned to someone else that they had not done well on the exam ...
well, to be honest, they had flunked it. "Gee, so did I!" Well, it didn't
take long for everyone to find out that EVERYONE flunked the test. No one
wanted to admit that they just didn't get it ("it" being the concepts of
group theory). After all, most of us we were senior math majors. But after we
started talking to each other openly, we found that the teacher's abusive
attitude toward us and inability to instruct was likely the cause. The test
was also laced with material we were seeing for the first time or, in the
words of the professor, "that we should have known anyway."
So we complained.
We filed a formal grievance against the professor and were invited to a
hearing. At the hearing, we demanded that the professor never be allowed to
teach undergraduates again. But the dean only showed us photocopied articles
substantiating the professor's ability to attract $$$$ through his research
and said, "Sorry folks, but we just can't do that." In the end, we were
allowed to re-take the course at no charge from another professor.
Funny thing ... we all got A's the second time around.
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