Thursday, May 12, 2011

Whatever you say, Sir

This story has recently been making the rounds in academia. Long story short: A student in the veterinary school at the University of California at Davis had to miss several quizzes after giving birth to her baby. In response, the department chair asked the class presidents to email all of their classmates and have them vote on how the student should be graded in light of her absence. Options included “automatic A final grade,” and “automatic C final grade,” among others. A blogger got wind of the email and publicized it, and eventually the department chair resigned from his position as chair.

There is no shortage of comments one could make on the story. But one detail that caught my attention was that the class presidents -- the elected leaders of a class of graduate students at a professional school -- were willing to do the chair’s bidding by emailing his unfair and bizarre question to the entire class, apparently without any objection whatsoever.

Am I crazy to wonder whether our educational system is turning out too many students who can’t stand up to authority figures on issues of right and wrong? I wonder if those class presidents sat through thirteen years of programs like this, this, and this.

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