January 4, 2007

How to go to College - The Unofficial Rules

Via Ask Dr Kirk, check out this article by Mary S. Alexander & Bill Petkanas.

This is one of those "kids today are such uncooth barbarians" articles and it's pretty amusing, I have to say. It does have a lot of interesting suggestions, some of which I will mention here, without the detail:

  • Read the syllabus
  • Do the reading
  • Don't whine
  • Show up on time
  • You are an adult

And one with the detail:
Plagiarism. The rules against plagiarism are spelled out in your catalog or student handbook. The official story is that it’s against the rules, and everyone knows it. With the advent of the internet, plagiarism has gone from a small but persistent offence to a widespread and common occurrence. It’s very tempting to download articles and papers, and it’s easy, too. Many people do it, and here’s what they find out: your professors have been surfing the Net since its inception. They not only know a great deal about their field (well, they’re experts in it, actually) but they can find that article or paper faster than you can. Some even have plagiarism detecting programs, like “turnitin.com.” So, not only is it wrong, cheating, disrespectful, and counter to the values of your education, it also doesn’t work. You’ll get caught.

The complete list with all the comments is well worth reading, full of very good advice for any young adult about to start post-secondary education. When you think about it, lots of these suggestions are applicable to anyone going through life and it's certainly appropriate to point them out to kids just starting the journey. I can definately see profs wanting to hand out something like this at the beginning of a first year class to let students know they're not in high school anymore.

On the other hand, I find the hectoring tone rather annoying and patronizing. The assumption seems to be guilty until proven civilized and if I were a prof, I'm not sure I would want to start a class off on this kind of foot. On the other hand, I'm not a prof and I don't have to put up with the behaviour of the contemporary student. When I do IL sessions and meet students at the ref desk, I see symptoms of most of these behaviours. The first thing that comes to mind when I see something like this is that everyone is assuming that the current generation is so much worse than previous ones in terms of politeness, respect and work ethic. But I think the main issue is that people are comparing the worst of today's kids with an idealized version of their own (and their friends) behaviour. After all, the people that are profs (and librarians) today were surely the keenest kids of their own cohort and comparing their own now-rose-coloured behaviour with current students seems a bit disingenuous.

But, in the end, I'd have to say I wouldn't use something like this list in it's current form -- softened, reworded, excerpted, yes. But not in it's current form.

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