Report: Professor Allows Students to Choose Own Grades for ‘Stress Reduction’

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Why bother judging work on its merits?

A professor at the University of Georgia reportedly allows its students to choose their own grades as part of a “stress reduction policy.”

According to an article in the College Fix, computing instructor Rick Watson allows his students at the school’s Terry College of Business pick their grades because “emotional reactions to stressful situations can have profound consequences for all involved.”

“If you feel unduly stressed by a grade for any assessable material or the overall course, you can email the instructor indicating what grade you think is appropriate, and it will be so changed. No explanation is required,” a classroom rule under the course’s “stress reduction policy” states, according to the Fix.

What’s more, the Fix also notes that Watson takes pride in testing for only “low level mastery of the course material” on the exams for his data programming course — and allows his students to use their books, notes, and laptops to take them.

“While this policy might hinder the development of group skills and mastery of the class material, ultimately these are your responsibility,” the policy explanation states. “I will provide every opportunity for you to gain high level mastery.”

Now, in case you were wondering whether or not I noticed that Watson seems to contradict himself in those two statements — I did. Because the truth is, if you are not exposing your students to the expectation of their work being judged on its merits, then you’re not really giving them “every opportunity” to learn how to succeed in a society where their work will be judged on its merits. If the only way you can survive in a computer class is by knowing that you get to be the one to say how well you did, then there’s no way in hell that you’ll ever be able to survive in a real-world computer career.

A common impulse among people reading this will probably be to call the students in these classes “snowflakes,” but I’m really not so sure that that’s the case. After all, we don’t know whether or not any student actually demanded this sort of system, just that it’s the system that the instructor chose. It might not be that these students are this sensitive, but rather that Watson is just assuming that they are — an assumption that I would say is most likely false.

Yep… you heard me. Maybe I have too much faith in humanity, but I really do think that most of these young adults would be able to handle having a professor grade them and then still go on to lead normal, healthy lives. If they did find themselves unable to cope? Well, then they could always turn to someone who has been through it for advice — someone like, for example, any first grader.


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