Monday, January 16, 2006

A Note from the Service Sector

Inside Higher Education has a brief article today on "Rate Your Students", a site that I've criticized before for, among other reasons, being massively undignified and sinking to the level of... well, the Internet. Students are usually teenagers and can, sadly, be expected to act like teenagers. But, instructors should not.

However, there is one response to the article that sums up exactly the attitude I encounter among perhaps 10% of my students. I'd like to quote it entirely because it just perfectly encapsulates the beliefs of so many students, parents, and administrators.

"Students are customers — and therefore, it is in their interest to rate professors (those who provide a service). In what other industry do you see merchants rating their customers? Probably not many. Because it doesn’t matter if your customers are bad ones — as long as they pay. And students do. They pay dearly on tuition that pays professors’ salaries. So professors should suck it up and do their job. If you want better students, increase your admissions standards or move to a better school. But DON’T admit a student and then complain they are a bad customer."

Now, imagine being in a position of authority and encountering this attitude on a regular basis... How exactly do you teach this student? How do you grade someone who believes that they made enough effort already in paying tuition? That it doesn't matter if they are a good student so long as they've paid? Or who believes that the teacher has no legitimate authority and is a part of the service sector? Should we, in fact, do like he says, and give up and leave? Because I'm kind of thinking that we should.

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