I saw this on the web the other day. It’s a letter Professor Steven Aird gives his students at the University of Maryland’s University College on the first day of class. I wish I could give it to my students and that they would get it. I think everyone who teaches at a high school or college level shares many of these thoughts. Here are some of the key excerpts, and I recommend you click the link and read the letter in its entirety.
I believe that I serve you and our country best when I help you to discover and develop your abilities, and when I assist you in developing the intellectual tools, the strength of character, and the self-discipline that will be necessary to overcome the obstacles you will encounter throughout your lives, not just in academia. You can only develop skills and self-confidence when your professors maintain appropriately rigorous standards in the classroom and insist that you attain reasonable competence. You cannot genuinely succeed if your professors lower the bar for you. Instead, you will simply fail at the next stage in life, where the cost of failure is much greater.
I believe that professors must not unintentionally hinder their students by trying to make everything easy for them. Obtaining an education is hard work and there is no short cut. . . .
Academic mediocrity, which is rapidly becoming the rule rather than the exception, is seductive because it is politically much easier than maintaining academic excellence, and most students won’t notice the difference anyway until it’s too late. Professors who lower their standards for any reason, have not served you well! . . .
For your part, you must accept the responsibility to come to class, pay attention, take notes, ask questions, and study. Many U.S. high school graduates now entering college have not grasped these fundamental principles. Many, tragically, have third and fourth grade language skills. They are bright, but only marginally literate. They cannot do basic math, and they have no reasoning ability. Nonetheless, they have been given high school diplomas and they have been told that they are ready to take on the world. They have been deliberately defrauded by those who had the responsibility to educate them. Ironically the culpable “educators” have failed them by passing them.