March Madness: Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

“You’re anal,” concluded a student in one of my writing classes after I told her I wasn’t accepting her late class assignment. It’s clear in the class guidelines that first drafts of story assignments must be turned in on time or the grade for the assignment is F. But she seemed to believe, for reasons I didn’t understand, that I would overlook her serious omission. Well, said a student in another news writing class, we feel that the class is disorganized. We show up we and we never know what to expect.

These were the most notable comments in the face-to-face meetings I scheduled with my student writers in March. This semester, like the others, many didn’t read the syllabus nor the assignment guidelines and many came to class unprepared. Some can’t or won’t follow simple directions.

They, like many before them, Do the DUH a lot.

Students are required to include in their news stories descriptive detail of their interview sources. Many balk. QMfE, “I didn’t know where to put the information, so I left it out,” several have said even though they were told several times throughout the early part of the semester that they were required to include specific information in their first drafts. When I copy edit the drafts, I told them, I will suggest where to include the information. Besides name and addresses and ages, they must include location of the interview, what the source was wearing as well as majors and minors. More descriptive detail would be better, they’re told.

“I read the New York Times everyday,” said one student early in the semester, “and I never see that information in their stories,” so why should she be required to include it in her articles to be published in the WORD. It’s a farcical refrain expressed often by students who don’t read the Times as much or as thoroughly as they allege in class. My response depends on my mood and frame of mind.


– “It’s in the assignment guidelines.”
– “You don’t write for the Times, you write for the WORD.
– “Not doing it will seriously impact your grade.”

A while back I tried to reason with them about the importance of descriptive detail and other matters regarding class. But that too often led  to argumentative and disingenuous discourse so puerile that it was if the students were acting as if they were stage guest on a Jerry Springer episode.

I started taking one grade off the final grade of students who refused to include the info.  Now, the penalty can be as much as two grades if not F on the assignment.

Lots of Pushback this semester in the writing classes. Puerile petulance. Some are miffed that they can’t drink water near the Room 470 HN computers. The next time you pull a stunt like that, one defiant student was recently told in writing, you’ll be meeting with the College’s  Faculty Student Disciplinary Board. Some are miffed that they can’t have their cell phones at the ready. “I see a cell phone on the desk, and it’s F for the class,” I said at the start of the semester and then gave a defiant student one more chance as he hunched over about 4 feet from me, trying to conceal his text messaging.

Many but not all of the malingerers, whiners and malcontents are those faltering in class, and not because, as many of my Colleagues believe, they are dumb or talentless. Nope, they don’t want to do the work. And still want at least a B. And D:F/M, truth be told, encourages this kind of academic obstreperousness.

End of Part 1.

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