Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Lost Generation

I hadn't realized how irritated I was with my various pregnancy-related interactions until I sat down to write my previous post. The combination of the writing of the post and the awesome feedback acted as a much-needed aggravation purge (thank you everyone!). But I particularly enjoyed the comments by PhysioProf and Toaster Sunshine:

Toaster Sunshine "My own mother recently admitted that I was raised on Benadryl and whiskey to keep her sane. And formula. And I turned out all right! She then told me when and how I was conceived. I didn't need that."

PhysioProf:"My thinking on all this child-rearing "advice" is that mammals that can't even fucking talk--and thus cannot possibly give each other advice--manage to raise their offspring just fine."

These comments struck a cord with me because I have slowly been formulating my rhetorical defense against aggressive mother-to-be bullying around the concept that there can't be one "true" way to raise a child. Each generation seems to have a new "right way" and if one of them was actually right  there should be evidence that the other generations aren't doing so well, you know a "lost" generation. For example, I feel like the push for breast feeding has primarily been a recent phenomena (you know aside from the millions of years where that was really the only choice) and since many people of my generation (including me) were probably raised on formula I take this as evidence that formula does not=brain death. I was feeling very smug about my lost generation argument until the following interactions occurred with students from the large lecture class I'm currently teaching:


Interaction 1: I have two students with the same last name, let's say Smith. Interestingly, they get almost the exact same grade on every exam. One of them has the initials AB and the other BA. On the last exam, only one of them turned in an exam. Weirdly, the exam contained the name of one of them (Smith, BA) and the student identification number of the other (Smith AB). Smith BA emailed me very unhappy (because I went with the student ID number in assigning the grade), implying that they had received an email from the scantron people with their grade and I must have lost it. Since I pretty much went straight from the exam to the scantron place, there is no place I could have lost the thing and if they received an email with their grade so should I. I explained the situation in my reply and asked that they forward me their email from the scantron people so I could sort this out. They never got back to me. Either the exam score was not actually all that important to Smith BA or there's something going on here I don't understand. Oh, and the kicker? Smith BA sent the complaining email during the middle of class. I HATE that!

Interaction 2: Student begs and pleads to get into my class. After two weeks enough people drop that I can add her, so I sign her add form. She fails miserably (like, statistically would have done better on the exams if she had randomly guessed), has something come up the requires me to give her an Incomplete and it turns out she never actually turned in the registration form so is not actually signed up for my class. Now wants me to fix this because she'll lose her scholarship if she falls below a certain  number of credits so she has to be registered for my class.

Interaction 3: For the past month, during every class period I have been announcing an assignment that is due. The assignment, due date, and instructions are also up on the class website; have been for a month (which was also announced every day in class). A couple of weeks ago I received the following email:

Dear Professor Chaos,
Im in your class and i missed the lecture that you 
assigned the writing assignment in and I was wondering if there was  any way I could make up those 50 points either by doing the assignment and getting some points docked due to the assignment being late or if I could do a different assignment for extra credit. Thank you for considering my request.
Clueless Student

Interesting thing was that this was sent 4 days before the deadline. Apparently they had missed more than a couple of lectures. (Oh, and even the point total was wrong).

Interaction 4: After the last exam, each of my students received notification of their current grade in the class. The notice included their scores on each of the exams, their total exam points, their current percent going into the final exam, and whether or not I had received their assignment (see interaction 3). Each entry had an explanatory heading. In class, I then went over the notice they received and what everything meant just in case it was not clear. I received the following email after class:

Thank you for sending me this.
Can you please explain it for me because I don't quite get it!
Thank you
Aggravating Student

Pasted in her email were the scores I sent her. I explained that I had covered that in class but was happy to explain again, and reiterated what the various scores meant and that the "n" meant that I did not have an assignment from her. Then I received this email:

Hey Professor Chaos,
I understand that but,Does that mean Im ganna be able to pass this class or not? And also you have N for my writing assignment but I handed it in Some time last week.Does that mean you dont have it or you haven't graded it yet?
Aggravating Student

No Aggravating Student. You apparently did not understand at all. Since all that info was literally in the email I sent her before, I wasn't sure what to write - so I admit I ignored it.  She then proceeded to send the exact same email several hours later. I finally emailed her back, explaining that if she failed the final exam she would fail the class but if she didn't fail the final she wouldn't fail the class and then offered to let her "resubmit" her writing assignment (I have been distracted this semester afterall. Maybe her's is the only one I lost for some reason). That was two weeks ago and I still haven't received that assignment.


I'm not so proud of my lost generation argument anymore. I'm beginning to suspect that the lost generation is actually sitting in my class. All that's left of my once mighty argument now is the following burning and important question: Is it really gauche to contact the mothers of these people and ask  "Did you feed your child breast milk or formula?"


madscientist said...

Formula = Stupid; Breast Milk = Genius?

Maybe you should e-mail each of these students and ask them specifically if their mothers breast or bottle fed them. Or, at the beginning of the semester, you could give them a little "let's see what you know" type of quiz, where you slip the breast milk question in there. Then you can do some correlations and report back to us! We want to know!

Average grade is 67% correlated with average length of time that student breast fed! Publish in Nature! Citations galore!

Mad Hatter said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the breast milk vs. formula issue has nothing to do with the way these students turned out. Perhaps you should ask if they were dropped on their heads when they were babies?! :-)

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Students act like this because of the enabling behavior of faculty. I refuse to engage in e-mail colloquies with students and only respond to unsolicited student e-mails that seek to make an appointment to see me in my office. This increases dramatically the activation energy for asking me substantive and administrative questions, and thus has a dramtic clarifying effect on students' minds.

Anonymous said...

I feel like we are living in parallel universities! I've tried the hardnose approach of PP before and my evals tanked (whaaa, she's too hard, I spend too many hours studying to only get C, she wasn't in during office hours!, she didn't reply to emails!!).
Now I have a big class again, and I'm walking a tightrope between hardnose and not-so-evil. I address common email concerns in class, so they have to be there to get the answer to their email. I also think the students expect young women profs to be more coddly compared to graybeards. But I'm getting exactly the same crap you have, including 2 students with the same damn name, middle initials, and similar scores! At least this year, I've only been sic'd with 2 clueless parental units.

You'll be a great mom - tune out the whackiness.

sidenote: there was a news story recently about rocket fuel being found in baby formula.

BikeMonkey said...

The boomers. whatever their parents did to those dilchis* the muppethugging opposite.

*sometimes that word verification, i tell you

Candid Engineer said...

You are simply dealing with the lower half of the gene pool. Breast milk wouldn't have saved them.

Prof-like Substance said...

I agree with CE, all the breast milk in the world would have done no good for the kids you are encountering.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Feed your kid whatever works best, and just raise him/her to use his/her brain and not be a fuckwit.