Monday, June 20, 2005

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

This has got to end. I can't believe that people--"educators" at that--expect, as a matter of policy, less from people simply because of their background. Dr. Peter West, Head of the Research Group on Men and Families at the University of Western Sydney, writes the following, obviously from personal experience:
“Yes, yes, thank you Mr Jones, please sit down. ...I want to talk to you about the grades you gave those students from Mongolia.”

“Well yes I thought they’d complain. But Dean, the University’s policies are quite clear. Plagiarism means that you fail. It’s on our website.”

“Yes of course it is. This university continues the traditions of Oxford and Cambridge, though of course with flexible learning and continuous assessment, all informed by cutting-edge research and the latest technology. The University needs to give the community, and of course the government, confidence in our reputation as defenders of academic rigour and excellence.”

“That’s why I failed those students. It was a plain case of plagiarism. They all said the same thing in that essay on business ethics. And it was all stolen from the web. Doesn’t this university believe in standards?”

“Yes, yes. Mr Jones. Of course we do! But I was going to speak to you anyway. Your failure rate is rather high, isn’t it, I mean compared with most of your colleagues?”

“Hmmm. It’s well within faculty guidelines. If students can’t write proper English sentences, don’t know what a paragraph is, and just pretend to read one or two books, what hope have they got if they don’t come to lectures? Aren’t we just making a pretence of learning if they aren’t learning anything? Most of them don’t even want to learn.”

“Mr Jones, please don’t trouble yourself marking their English. If we get obsessed with students writing a perfect English essay we could be accused of academic elitism. University is for the great unwashed these days, you know. Look, if they can’t write, just send them off to Academic Writing, or whatever that’s called since we out-sourced it to the school across the freeway. And these students really are a special case.”

“I see. All students are special, but some are more special than others. Aren’t we supposed to treat all students equally, Dean?”

“Oh of course we are. But these students have, you know, special problems. Foreign students have kept this faculty alive. We would have to have sent quite a few staff packing if it weren’t for those delightful faces that are so much more interesting really, than the great mass of apathetic students we get so often! Especially from the western suburbs. Mongolia doesn’t have the tradition of academic excellence that local students have. They don’t have the same religious beliefs, either. So their ethos, or for that matter, their business ethics seem to be rather different.” (emphasis mine)

Talk about "enlightened" racism. The Dean in this tongue-only-slightly-in-cheek article exemplifies to a T what Larry Elder rightly calls "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Seriously, does anyone think that giving passing grades to failing students is actually helping the Mongolians/fill-in-whatever-group-here, as opposed to making them "feel good about themselves" (whatever that's supposed to accomplish)? How on earth is this supposed to educate tomorrow's world leaders? This horrific approach to "education" will spell doom for society that it comes into contact with if it's allowed to continue. Stamp out dishonesty, corruption, offensively low expectations wherever they are. Especially when they are being fostered by folks who have the power to change things. Let the powers that be call you what they want. But people deserve to be pushed to their utmost potential, even if it makes them -gulp- work hard. It's the only way the future leaders of Mongolia or any other country are going to keep moving forward. And one day they'll thank you for it.


Blogger K-2 said...

What you tell is something I saw in England (I am not going to name the university). We were a big group of students, the most being arabic people doing a master. Many of them had a very poor english, and did very poor in the exams. The board decision was to pass them because they were necessary due to the huge amount of money they represented. Of course, the rest of us who were not so numerous, had a proper evaluation. So, how many of them really learned something from this course?. All of us were seen simple as source of money, nothing else, and the evalution was made in fuction of that. Sad, very sad indeed.

6/23/2005 3:00 AM  
Blogger samraat said...

4/04/2010 10:24 PM  

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