Success is more than presence

On February 20, 2014

In many classes students are riding on the cusp of too many absences.

Although some professors do not have strict policies regarding attendance, other classes threaten to penalize students up to a letter grade per unexcused absence.

The famous baseball player Yogi Berra may have said it best, “School success is 90 percent showing up; the other half is mental.”
Sadly this model, however humorously mathematically incorrect, is descriptive of the way many grades are being recorded, with such emphasis on attendance.

Before diving into the negative implications with an attendance-for-grades policy, it is important to understand what education is and what it is trying to accomplish.

Education is the process of learning concepts and ideas but there are varying interpretations of its intent.

Some education philosophers argue the purpose of a college education is to change people, while others argue the purpose is to provide the means for people to change themselves.

Regardless of intent, policies that force education through coercion or punishment are not productive means to the end.

I am conscious of the fact society is looking to colleges to give out accredited degrees, but degrees should mark depth of study in a certain field, not the hours sat in a classroom chair.

Giving students an incentive to go to class to receive participation points or holding their grades hostage by strict attendance policies have far reaching negative implications that are simply not accounted for.

Attendance policies are constantly defended because people believe attendance policies provide a real world lesson.

As working adults, if you don’t show up to work your paychecks will not show up. In the real world, workers are required to go to work and build a habit of doing so.

However, the comparison between people having to go to work for a living and students choosing to go to school is faulty at best.

The difference is obvious; students going to school are purchasing a service, whereas people going to work are being paid for a service.

In other words, going to work is required to get a paycheck but students pay for class whether they go or not.

Furthermore an attendance policy reinforces the notion that students can advance by simply showing up to class, which is far from true.

For the real world example to work, individuals should be rewarded based upon their performance, not whether they kept a seat warm.

The important thing is whether benchmarks are met.

When a school loses focus on the end result, they stop looking at a student’s work and look at how that work was done.

Sadly this is already happening at universities around the U.S., according to a New York Times article written by Max Roosevelt in 2009.

Students have relied on the process of working hard to get them a good grade instead of getting a high mark from work well done.
Professor James Hogge, dean of the Peabody School at Vanderbilt University, states, “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘If I work hard, I deserve a higher grade.’”
Attendance policies do not have a basis in the real world because the real world wants results, not just a body.

Attendance policies also devalue students work because they focus on the struggle to succeed, not the actual success.


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