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Class assigned blog post 4 (actually 5, but I skipped 4, so this is 4).

Right off the bat, I am inclined, perhaps somewhat erroneously, to respect anyone named Professor X.

I mean, come on, Professor Xavier is a man that commands respect, is he not? (Sir Patrick Stewart, as well.) Anyway, moving on.

In his article, “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower,” Professor X argues against the notion that college is for everyone. He discusses his experience as an adjunct professor teaching English 101 and 102 night classes for non-traditional students who are taking classes for reasons such as advancing at work. Professor X supports his argument with the example of one of his students, whom he calls Ms. L and describes as a woman in her 40s who had never even sat in front of a computer. He explains how he had assigned a research paper to the class, one that involved discussing two sides to a historical controversy. To Professor X, it was obvious that Ms. L was not understanding the assignment. He even said that he knew she was going to fail before she even turned her paper in. She changed her topic several times, never once actually coming up with something that would fulfill the assignment guidelines, and she lacked the appropriate computer skills to complete the assignment. 

This is where I lose respect for Professor X. He is trying to support his argument that college isn’t for everyone by giving an example of a student he failed without actually helping. Throughout his narrative, the only thing he did to “help” was tell her to make an appointment with the librarian and that she has “some computer-skills deficits” that she “should address as soon as [she] can.” When she turned in her paper, she did fail. The paper didn’t have a thesis. It wasn’t an in-depth analysis of two different sides to a historical controversy. The formatting of the paper was inconsistent and distracting. The paper was too short, and she had cited the databases rather than the journals themselves.

I agree with Professor X that that paper deserved an F. I agree that giving her the F was the right thing because by fudging her grade so she could pass would cheapen the efforts of the other students, and that he wasn’t grading effort, he was grading the product. In fact, grading her higher than she deserved would have been detrimental to her. If she didn’t fail, she wouldn’t learn.

It is not the professor’s responsibility to hold his students’ hands or force them to learn. You know, that whole “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” thing. The problem here is that he did not lead her enough. He saw that she was struggling and did not seem to help her much. (Personally, it sounds like Ms. L should have been in remedial English. That’s why we have English 100T, to equip students with the skills to pass English 101.)

But Ms. L wasn’t the point of the article. The point was that in today’s society, we put a lot of unnecessary emphasis on schooling. Most jobs these days require some form of higher education. My father has reminded me several times (I think to comfort himself against the fact that I am majoring in English) that it often doesn’t even matter what degree you get, just that you have one. To me, it sounds like Professor X was trying to say that college isn’t for everyone because they don’t have the skills necessary to pass certain classes.

I think that’s bullshit. The point of education is to learn what we don’t know. Sure, these students come in without the necessary skills…That’s where it’s your job as a professor to equip them with the skills. Granted, it’s not all the professor’s responsibility. It is also the student’s responsibility to be open to learning. It’s a two-way street.

That being said, just because someone can’t write a paper very well doesn’t mean college isn’t right for them. It just means they need some extra help.