Behave for the grade November 2, 2012

Originally appeared in The Peak. 


You can’t feel it, but I’m trying to light you on fire with my eyes. I want to hate you to death. I’ve stopped listening to anything the professor is saying and I am trying to awaken in me the power of Greyskull, my X-Gene, or that weird kid from The Omen, and I’m trying to make you combust a little. Not a full body burn or anything (I’m not a weirdo), but just enough to cause you enough discomfort to leave, and maybe take your friends with you so I can listen to the aging hippie trying to pound some book learnin’ far enough into my skull so that I can get out of this place and leave you to pat the hair flames out. I don’t hate you. You just don’t give a shit, and we both know it.

And it’s not totally your fault. You probably shouldn’t be here. You obviously aren’t a scholar, because a scholar would revel in the opportunity to soak in some quality knowledge, even if they were being coerced into a breadth or writing course by an overzealous university desperate for its ‘comprehensive’ crown. So instead you lean over and have a laugh with your friend, in distracting whispers in a small room and full-on conversations in a major lecture theatre. But I understand. The value of a degree is far inflated and you might just be here because it’s the new price of admission to life. I get it. But please, please shut up.

I don’t trust profs to mete out the kind of medieval justice I am looking for.

A professor once commended the summer class I was in because we restrained ourselves from watching funny videos on the Internet while he was trying to lecture. I laughed before I saw that he was deadly serious. It was at this moment that a striking injustice for our current system of professor feedback. We, with no knowledge of what makes a good professor outside our own subjective ideas of what makes a good educator, grade them and affect their careers every semester. We also get grades from them, but that grade is on our work as academics. There is usually some participation grade, but how often does it make a difference past your second year? And besides, I don’t trust them to mete out the kind of medieval justice I’m looking for.

I want to grade you.

Hear me out on this. We all know academic probation is a thing, and we all know that acts of plagiarism and moral turpitude can get you chucked out of any institution if you try hard enough. But the more insidious disease at this school and schools everywhere is people impeding the education of others. It was cute in high school, but now you are taking money out of my pocket with every word you whisper out of your jerk mouth into the jerk ear of your jerk friend who is a jerk. So I want to grade you. When you take my money and my time away from my studies, I want to give you a point. I’m not special (though you think you are), so there is likely a radius of like-minded humans imagining unpleasant things happening to you in their heart of hearts, so they can give you a point too. Now, a single off day inspiring a single lecture full of angry yuppies can’t get you in much trouble, but pretty soon a pattern is going to emerge.

And then you get expelled.

Yep. We’ve become too soft in our scholarly institutions. Rigor went out the door the second tenure became something dependant on the opinions of the student body. So we students are taking matters into our own hands. If you get too many points, you’re out the door. If you can inspire enough people to convince a posse of real human beings and peers and maybe some sort of board reviewing all the points you’ve accrued to chuck you out, you obviously didn’t have your head down low enough to be studying with any real effort. So you’re gone. Go someplace else. Away with you, and giggle no more.

Please, please shut up. You are taking money out of my pockey everytime you open your jerk mouth.

You’re thinking about the practicalities of this system, how the names of the future dead (to us as a school, not actually dead) would be known to their would-be detractors, or how such a system could beat personal vendettas or organized lynchings or what have you. Good, that’s a good brain to have in your head. I bet you shut up in lecture. But if Yelp can develop a good system for the world to come together to rate the local noodle hut, the greatest minds in academia can come up with a system to make sure that those who weren’t raised at home don’t take out their parental shortcomings on the rest of us.

So next time you’re trawling English 101 for that ‘W’ credit you need, or just have no idea what you’re doing in college, don’t lean over to the person next to you to have a chat about how the major you chose won’t make you any money. Just leave. Go look at pretty girls or eat a bagel. Just leave me to my studies so I don’t have to hate you so hard I start devising peer review systems to throw you out of school.

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