Janice Fiamengo of Ottawa dreads encounters with incompetent grade-grubbers.
Meetings about bad grades are uncomfortable not merely because it is unpleasant to wound feelings unaccustomed to the sting. Too often, such meetings are exercises in futility. I have spent hours explaining an essay’s grammatical, stylistic, and logical weaknesses in the wearying certainty that the student was unable, both intellectually and emotionally, to comprehend what I was saying or to act on my advice. It is rare for such students to be genuinely desirous and capable of learning how to improve. Most of them simply hope that I will come around. Their belief that nothing requires improvement except the grade is one of the biggest obstacles that teachers face in the modern university. And that is perhaps the real tragedy of our education system: not only that so many students enter university lacking the basic skills and knowledge to succeed in their courses — terrible in itself — but also that they often arrive essentially unteachable, lacking the personal qualities necessary to respond to criticism.
Yes, that behavior is learned, and yes, there is much to say about so-called progressive education depriving young people of the reality checks they will encounter only later, in harsher forms. And yet, it is your duty as a professor to say no and uphold standards.  Catching up on technical papers or your reading, and writing your own technical papers is also part of the job, but without the saying no, tactfully, to incompetent grade-grubbers, there is no reputation for selectivity to exploit when your research competes with that of others.


Kerry said...

BTW...we completely resent the term 'grade grubber'. We prefer 'apple-polishing mark bargainer'

Stephen Karlson said...

I've had no experience with polishing, whether of apples or anything else, and a lot of grubbing that would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.