Unteachable Students – Issues in the Humanities

by hamiltonmj1983

Teaching humanities courses has its challenges. Teaching religion courses can be especially frustrating. A friend posted this recent blog about “The Unteachables” and the difficulty of teaching humanities these days.

The author divides the issue into “traditional” education and “progressive” education, although I think the problem runs deeper – the main problem that I have encountered is the issue of consumer-students who feel that they deserve good grades because they are paying money to come to class. They essentially are “purchasing” a degree so that they might get a better job. This sense of entitlement has caused students to expect an “A” if they show up every week, and a “C” if they just show up to the tests.

Not every student is like this, but I would argue that, at least in a community college setting, most of them think this way. If I didn’t curve my tests, I would have 10-15% of my class getting a passing grade and the rest failing, which would quickly result in me losing my job. In the past I would have considered 85-90% of the students failing to be my fault for writing a test that is too difficult, but when a handful of students make 90% and up without extra credit or a curve, and nobody is in the C or D range, and half the class scores less than 60%, I feel that the problem is unprepared students.

When I don’t “give” high grades to students that don’t deserve them, I receive a lot of complaints. One student, on my yearly evaluation, said that I “don’t respect working students and assign too much information for someone to learn if they have a full time job.” That didn’t stop the  other handful of students who have a full load of courses plus a job from getting 95% + in the course …

When I teach, my goal is to challenge my students. If they know that they will get an automatic “A” or “B” just for showing up, they will not be challenged to do anything! My goal for my class is that it will be hard to fail, but also equally hard to make an “A,” because I want students to actually have to work to ace a class, even in a community college.

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