Sunday, April 24, 2011

This Is Starting To Sound Like A Country Song (Student Excuses)

Anyone who has been in education is all too familiar with the variety of student excuses. They tend to evolve in their availability. Students in high school for example don't have as much to work with as many have not emancipated themselves from parental control and oversight. In college however all bets are off. Students are able to explore the vast recesses of their mind but regrettably in the wrong fashion. The art of excuse-making has come a long way from "my dog ate my homework." Some of them are getting downright damn creative. You almost want to give credit for effort. The student condition leads them to believe that if they mix together a concoction of common logic (an incidence that isn't too far-fetched which usually involving a vehicle), perceived credibility of limited availability of knowledge (setting the information in a way where the teacher can in no way prove the reason for the excuse didn't happen in the manner described) and of course at least a couple fingers worth of emotion (attempt at guilt and sympathy while turning up the effort with vocal quality and facial expressions). This is what Aristotle would call the perfect blend to maximize persuasion. In this case, to persuade (manipulate) their instructor into a cooperative mindset. The cause might be a missed class, a late assignment, a forgotten test...who knows. The palpable irony however is that if a student put half of the energy into their work that they did into their excuses, they would have As, and I wouldn't feel like I'm developing an ulcer.
It's no coincidence that excuses come in droves only when presentations are supposed to be given and on test days. Due to successes in their art form in high school college students especially expect their teachers to simple allow them to make up tests and presentations at the student's convenience at no penalty. Some college educators allow this. Enablers. Pawns in the every growing instant gratification, entitlement paradigm. Admittedly, I try to give the benefit of the doubt when I can. There are some cases though when the series of events (sometimes over the semester, sometimes all at once) reaches a point that's just ri-damn-diculous. Honestly, sometimes it sounds like a country song which might include the following: dog died, wife left me for the local carney, friends gave up beer, house burned down, truck exploded, lost job, got another job but that building burned down too, van I was living in blew into the river and sank, got herpes from a prostitute, was cleaning my gun and it went off into a convenience store clerk, and how I'm sitting in a cell singing the country blues. Now granted, the excuses I hear aren't quite this bad but you'd be surprised at how close it gets at times.
The 2nd and 3rd most common excuses are the ones that are hard to have them account for: family issues and care problems. I always feel like a jackass when I request evidence of a family member passing but students aren't above figuratively killing a relative in order to get a few extra days for last minute panic studying or paper writing. No kidding, one semester while teaching at Texas Tech, one of my students had the same grandmother die twice (he edited the date on the funeral program). Oops. When it comes to vehicles, if I had a dollar for every student that got a flat tire whether it was it upon discovery that morning or on the way to school, I could retire right now.
The number one excuse is the most readily available: "I'm sick." Students figure that they're covered if they simply send their instructor an email citing whatever is going around at the time: allergies, flu, cold, or the "just not feeling well." It's evidently become fairly easy for students to create doctor's notes so now I need to require a number I can call to ensure that the student actually made a trip to the doctor's office. All this energy, for both me and the student, could be so incredibly better used elsewhere.
Despite how old this can get, it is still fun sometimes to watch students come up with something new. :-D Now if you'll excuse me, there's an Alan Jackson song playing in the distance somewhere, I smell smoke, and I'm not feeling well. :-p

1 comment:

  1. Thompson, that is an excellent post. There is so much truth into what you just wrote. I will admit, i made that attempt on a couple of rare occasions while in college simply because i knew i would get away with it because the professor was incredibly naive. However, i would never want to use the excuse about a relative dying because i feel that could indeed happen at any time and bite me in the ass lol. It does actually make you wonder though just how much thought one puts into thinking up such a preposterous story just to get out of something. Great post man, i enjoyed reading it.