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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Required participation points devalue degrees

    With students settling into their second week of classes, there is a possibility that some have already begun to fall into a relaxed lull. Some freshmen may even already be ditching classes, or at least considering it. But beware, although you’re not in high school anymore, most of your professors will treat you like you are with attendance and participation points.

    Instructors often sneak in a 20 percent attendance or participation grade in an effort to encourage students to show up and take part in the classroom activities, or so they say. Many times, it seems as though the only motive behind this is to make sure they have an audience of more than five students for their bland and boring lectures.

    Several instructors will say that if you’re going to learn, you need to be present and engaged with the material being covered. So for some reason, professors will reward or deduct points from you if you don’t show up and raise your hand. Shouldn’t a student’s stellar or horrible grade on exams and papers be the reward or punishment for skipping your twice weekly 8 a.m. snore fest?

    This is college. Stop making it high school, please. Participation incentives, or deductions, have no place here. A student shouldn’t be rewarded for showing up and spouting out the occasional “I don’t get it,” or “could you say that again?” remark. What’s even more sickening is that these “thanks for coming” points don’t end once you complete your mostly meaningless general education courses. Well into my third year of studies here at the UA, I’m entrenched in upper division courses, the courses where the material is supposedly so dense and so complex you must first complete a series of prerequisites to thoroughly prepare you. Nonetheless, I still see a nice 20 percent freebie points section titled “participation” on the syllabus.

    Yes, free and easy points rock; there is no doubting that, but at what point does personal responsibility kick in? What does it matter if I go to class and space out or if I stay home and blow off some lectures? It’s my education, I’m responsible for it. Professors aren’t parents, and we’re all legal adults here. If I don’t need to go to class to disassemble your easy exams and get an “A,” why can’t I just stay home and enjoy that low-maintenance grade? How does me showing up and proving I have a pulse make any difference whatsoever?

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, why does a student who struggles by with a 60 percent get to have their lackluster knowledge rewarded by planting themselves in a chair and raising their hand a few times?

    The old days of getting an “A” for effort are long since past, or at least they’re supposed to be. Your college diploma is meant to be proof that you mastered the knowledge required to pass and earn a degree in your major. The diploma isn’t a certificate of attendance, so stop treating it like one, please. If a student masters the knowledge and proves it on exams, why does it matter if they sporadically came to class? There’s no doubt that going to class is helpful most of the time, but there is no sense in rewarding students with the consolation prize of a participation grade. If a lecture is as pressing as the professor would like you to think it is, then you’ll know it when your grade dips or jumps after skipping or attending a lecture.

    — Storm Byrd is the Perspectives editor for the Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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