Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How smart is your elementary school teacher?

One taboo subject on campus, perhaps on any university campus: anything to do with comparing intellectual abilities of students across majors.  We are expected to pretend that all students are equally capable.  (Plus, of course, pretentious faculty, even at teaching universities like mine, walking around as if they are geniuses!) 

And then comes the GPA issue.  We are suddenly faced with a situation where we find plenty of students with perfect or near-perfect GPAs in some majors, and far-from-perfect GPAs in others.  But, of course, academia being nothing but politics anymore where honest discussions are not allowed, we never openly engage in discussions.

So, we whisper in hallways, and might complain to colleagues we trust.  In my case, not having a colleague to trust makes it all the easier to blog about all these :)

In my second year as a graduate student, when I was a teaching assistant, one undergraduate student, who was in my discussion section, referred to the very course that I was TAing for as a "mickey mouse" course and that she had no problems earning high grades in many similar university courses.  I was amazed at such an honest and open admission from a student. (BTW, she was a contender, that year, to be in the "Royal Court" at the Rose Parade.)

What a terrible contrast it has been since I became a faculty, only to discover that most faculty, unlike that student, do not want to engage in honest and open discussions.

Worse, they are ready to throw out idiots like me who cling on to seemingly antiquated notions that education and university are about honest pursuits of truths!

It will be awesome if, for instance, a faculty meeting were devoted to the following graph (ht):

Fat chance!

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