Friday, 18 December 2015

Getting what you expect.

Just when you thought you were a rational being who made your political choices in a reasoned manner, along comes someone who does a study which says it's not necessarily so. It's not even necessarily down to your upbringing and your education. No, it's largely down to the configuration of your brain and whereabouts the various brain cells collect together. The test the researchers use is a sort of wonky circle for you to look at. If you see it as more of a circle than a square then you are probably quite a liberal, open-minded, even left-wing kind of person. If, on the other hand, you see it as a square then you are more rigid in your views and are more likely to be conservative, with large or small c, and tend towards the right-wing. Here's a link to an article about it but you need to be able to read Spanish to understand it. 

Phil and I have commented to each other recently on how many more students these days seem to leave university with a first class degree than used to be the case. Out of our cohort of around a hundred students reading French nobody was awarded a first and we considered ourselves to be a pretty good group. But forty odd years on it seems much more usual for lots of students in one cohort to achieve the highest accolade. There is a sneaky bit of us that wonders if there is an element of target-meeting coming into play here. Is someone saying that a certain percentage of students need to be achieving first class degrees? Or is it just old age and cynicism making us grumpy again? 

Anyway, this came to mind again this morning when I read something with the by-line "anonymous academic"- rather like the series of article written by the "secret teacher". The article began with comments about a flyer campaign; stuck to doors and notice boards around the university campus were notices which read, "All I am asking is a little respect seeing as I pay you £9,000 a year." 

This prompted the writer to think about his/her students and their expectation that they should be chased after and granted extensions to ensure that they met assignment deadlines, something that never used to happen, not even in sixth form, let alone at undergraduate level. The writer discussed it with colleagues. A series of stories emerged about students who regarded themselves as consumers rather than students, although they would probably nor admit this. 

One student suggested that his lecturer "owed" him £160 worth of teaching because he had cancelled a couple lectures through illness. Another asked to a tutorial to be rearranged for 8 in the morning instead of the suggested tutorial times of between 9 and 11. The times were inconvenient to the student and, as he was effectively paying the tutor, he felt he had the right to demand a more convenient time. Another objected to the grade given for a piece of work; he said he was disappointed with his low grade because he had “paid so much money”. The Idea of actually working for a grade seemed alien. Another student said the grade must be incorrect because he had turned up to all the lectures – as if simply regurgitating what he had been taught deserved a 70+ grade. 

As one lecturer commented, "They seem to think they are buying a degree, rather than working for it." 

 I have every sympathy with students today who have to pay such huge fees to go to university but I still find the attitude rather disturbing. Even if you pay for a service (which is how education now seems to be regarded in this current model) surely you should still expect to make some effort to benefit from that service. I wonder if any of them also pay for gym membership. If they go along to the gym but only half-heartedly complete the exercises, do they blame the gym for the fact that their fitness has not improved? 

After all, they have paid a lot of money to be allowed to use the facilities.

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