Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hi Standerds R Us

Yesterday I had to walk a mile and a half. Or, rather, the instructions were to “walk, jog, run, or whatever” six laps around the track. I thought I’d be clever and alternate between walking and jogging a lap, for a total “running” distance of three-quarters of a mile. I was great at the time, but today I can hardly walk. Damn. I guess I really am in terrible shape.

But I surpassed what nearly every other student did during class (yes, believe it or not, this is a college course). Way to set the bar high. The instructor obviously doesn’t care in the slightest about the course material or the students, and has exceedingly low expectations for our performance. She’s also five months pregnant, and she flat-out told us that if the baby comes early, we’ll all get a guaranteed 100% on our finals. Awesome enticement to study and try hard. Now how am I supposed to care about the material if she doesn’t?

For the most part, I think people will perform at the level they are expected to perform. That is, if they’re “supposed” to do poorly—or even have moderate success—it’s going to end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mediocrity and apathy breed….mediocrity and apathy. Raise the standards, however, and I think a lot of people will rise to the challenge. Give ‘em a push, and they’ll usually learn to fly.

I’m not much of a social theorist, but these to me seem like fairly obvious observable trends. I’m not blaming the fitness teacher—I’m blaming the societal mindset that tells us that this sort of thing is acceptable, normal, par for the course. While technology and our scientific capabilities and knowledge have increased drastically in the past decades, our educational and professional standards have declined (or so I’ve been told, and the limited evidence I’ve seen has supported that). Why? Why do we coddle our students, and then throw them out into the real world to, well, continue with their mediocrity and immature sense of entitlement? Heck, I know I’m a little guilty myself—most of us are. We like the easy life.

But if we don’t challenge ourselves to grow, who will?


secret agent woman said...

If walking a mile and a half was a stretch for the class, it's going to be a long semester!

Mozart said...

I'm more concerned about the mental strain. Last class, we discussed the relative merits of texting-while-driving using either a Motorola Razor or a Macintosh iPhone. The instructor was asking for our input.