What a former college instructor really thinks…

In the Classroom

The Plagiarist vs. The Play Jurist

In theory, committing plagiarism is supposed to be the surest way to get yourself expelled from college.  (The second surest way would be joining Duke’s lacrosse team…)  But believe it or not, plagiarism often goes unpunished or lightly reprimanded.  Let’s have a look at some of the people who make this situation possible:

The Professor.  If the professor discovers plagiarism, he will have to spend an extraordinary amount of time moving the case through the proper administrative channels.  He knows full well that his time is much better spent on editing the 52nd annual Yearbook for Frog Intestinal Studies.  Kermit’s wrath is far greater than what the professor can expect from the department chair, and if the plagiarists give him good course evaluations as a reward for being lenient, he might receive a small pay raise from the university.

The Department Chair. This person spends his time counting the number of students enrolled in his department’s courses.  He has no motivation to push his professors to crack down on plagiarism because the students would no longer be able to enroll in his department’s courses… and that would cost his department money.  To maintain the appearance of upholding academic standards, the department chair may ask the student to complete the plagiarized assignment “a second time.”

The Judicial Committee. If a case somehow makes its way to the administrative powers-that-be, there are still reasons why a plagiarist might come away unscathed.  The committee members know that tuition dollars pay their salaries and keep their employer afloat, so why hurry to deprive themselves of a source of income?  It is mandated that they punish the student now, perhaps with a reduced course grade and a notation of “plagiarist” on the transcript.  That notation can often be removed after a year or two if the student figures out how not to get reported again.  (The students who get caught often aren’t the brightest, so I wouldn’t hold out too much hope on that one…)  Exception: students who receive scholarships quickly lose out on some payments.

Potential Employers after Graduation.  Yeah… try telling students that they shouldn’t plagiarize because the corporate world looks down on cheating.   Students might believe you if you tell them that businesses look down on getting caught cheating, but professors usually can’t afford to tell students the truth.  And if students would want to work for an ethical business, they probably wouldn’t be considering plagiarism, right?

Classmates.  If you report your classmate for plagiarism, his friends will sneak into your dorm room, strangle you with a tube sock, and burn the place down.    Sounds fun, doesn’t it?


“Oskar Schindler was my Grandfather’s Great Uncle and That Makes Me a Special Student”

Dear Readers,

Please don’t get your hopes up.  Here at Necrotic Hijinks, we do not stoop so low as to joke about genocide.  When American college students become the victims, we will reconsider our policy.  (Legal disclaimer: we do not condone murder of any kind.)  Thank you.

Signed,

The Management

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Dear Readers,

Here at Necrotic Hijinks, we do not think it is funny that so many students have no idea who Oskar Schindler was, or that Adolf Hitler spoke German, or that the Nazis killed millions of innocent people, or that genocides continue to take place today.  Please excuse the misleading headline for this post; few students would ever claim to be related to Oskar Schindler because few colleges care enough to teach their students anything of importance.  You can’t claim to be related to someone you’ve never heard of.

Signed,

The Management

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Dear College-Age Readers,

We at Necrotic Hijinks extend our heartfelt apologies that your professors banished you from class when you informed them that Adolf Hitler spoke German.  According to most professors, Adolf Hitler speaks a funny form of English and lived on a ranch in Crawford, Texas.   That other Hitler guy is an unimportant detail to them.

Signed,

The Management

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Dear College-Age Readers,

Even though it is important to have important topics like genocide included in the curriculum, it is not appropriate for you to hold up the nude photographs of Holocaust victims as a reason to offer the course.  Even though the nude photos are what most professors will find interesting about the subject, it would be disgraceful for professors to prance in front of the classroom with the photos saying “Looky!  Looky! Looky!”  And you know they’d do it, don’t you?

Signed,

The Management

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Dear Readers,

Here at Necrotic Hijinks, we pride ourselves on historical accuracy.  Contrary to what you had thought, the man’s name was spelled O-S-K-A-R.  While we appreciate that you took your professors’ advice not to use Wikipedia as an authoritative source, please consider making use of legitimate reference materials before going ballistic over someone else’s spelling.  Thank you.

Signed,

The Management

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Dear Readers,

Despite what you may be thinking, this post was not designed to be gratuitous humor based on a tragic historical event.  You would be amazed to hear what some college faculty have to say about this period of history and its aftermath.  Many of them only care about dead people if they were killed because of their race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, or sexual orientation… and Jewish (and Christian) genocide victims usually don’t matter unless they were critical of their religious traditions, or of capitalism.

Signed,

Lou Tafisk


Shake Your Booty and Don’t Give Pop Quizzes

When I was in 2nd grade, my teacher was new and she obviously hadn’t spent much time around young children.  One day she was feeling especially out of her comfort zone and thought she needed to find a way to entertain the class.  So… she walked to the front of the room and said, “kids, I am now going to spin around for you.”  I don’t know why she thought this would be entertaining, but approximately half the class was clamoring for “more!  more!”  And the teacher kept spinning until one of the female students called out “they just want to see your underwear.”  The teacher promptly stopped.

Teaching second graders is a completely different game from teaching college students.  Sort of.  In college, students (or their parents) are paying tuition and believe that they deserve to get whatever they want.  The other big difference is that college students are above the legal age of consent, so it’s no longer entirely illegal if you give them the lingerie shots they clamor for.  Of course, college kids won’t be satisfied with just seeing your underwear; they get that all the time in the dorms.  Today’s students need to see you strut your stuff so they know you’re their equal.   (This must be why ratemyprofessors includes a chili pepper for students to identify their “hot” teachers.)

Always remember that egalitarianism must come first when it comes to teaching.  Shaking your booty shows them that you’re as dumb and horny as they are; the best teachers are always the ones that students can relate to.  And forget about all those pop quizzes; testing students’ knowledge implies that you know more than they do, and that’s an absolute no-no.   You are fellow explorers on a quest for knowledge and the most valuable knowledge you can discover together is disco butt exercises.


Can Heroin and Vodka Help Students Learn?

Imagine for a moment that you are a kindergarten teacher.  Today you are going to begin an educational assistance program for your students and they’re going to love it.  (As we all know, “they’re going to love it” is the best way to judge the effectiveness of pedagogical techniques.)  It’s even easier than all the hard stuff associated with memorizing and learning.

Here is the plan: you are going to shoot each student up three times with heroin.  Although you know that this won’t help them developmentally, your professors told you that heroin is the best way to motivate student learning.  As long as the kids’ teachers continue to give them heroin through the years, students will learn anything you give them.  If you stop injecting the heroin, they won’t learn anything.

Let’s have an honest show of hands: how many of you wish school had really been like this?  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  (Legal Disclaimer: don’t try this at home.)

Unfortunately, we all know that heroin does not assist learning even though withdrawal from any drug (including alcohol) can cause a person to lose knowledge or skills gained while under the influence.  The same goes for the incessant boosting of the students’ self-esteem and curricular dumbing-down.  It starts early, so teachers of older kids run the risk of losing their students’ cooperation if they don’t coddle them.  These teachers are informed that the student audience has changed; this is coupled with demands that teachers change their methods to “adapt” to the new student shortcomings.  I don’t mean to imply that everything was perfect in Education Land 75 years ago, but these demands miss the mark.  To see why, let’s go back to Kindergarten:

You just gave your kindergartener a shot of vodka today and he’s a little dizzy.  What’s the solution?  Correct!  You give him another shot of vodka.

Now he’s throwing up, but he likes the taste and wants more vodka.  What do you do?  You guessed it!  Two more shots!

And the little boy passes out in a puddle of his own vomit.   When he wakes up in the morning, you tell him that you’re proud of him because he handled the vodka very well.  He asks for more, so of course you’re supposed to give it to him.  You might as well hand him the whole bottle because he’s just so talented.

An hour later, his liver has decided that this isn’t funny and it’s no longer functioning.  Junior is now a dazzling shade of yellow.  (It makes him look so handsome!)  Unfortunately, you’re out of vodka so you decide to go see a doctor to ask about Junior’s lack of hand-eye coordination.  But you’re not looking for real medical help because you already know the right answer: a prescription for vodka!

And so it goes with inflating students’ grades and self-esteem while ignoring their reduced skills and ever-shortening attention spans.  The solution parents demand, the one colleges demand of professors, and the one students expect is MORE VODKA!  Um… I mean more dumbing down and more fueling of students’ self-esteem.

I think we can all see how that turns out.  In the end, the self-esteem addicts face the same results as the heroin addicts and alcoholics: their brains are fried.


The Swedish Chef Performs Neurosurgery

People sometimes need to be told what their talents aren’t.  I have seen students sucked into majors in which they had remarkably little talent… just because the professors needed more butts in the desks.  Of course, you can’t have half of your department’s majors flunking out of your classes, so you have to constantly tell them how good they are at the subject and give them grades to match so they’ll continue. First rule of college teaching: if you inflate your students’ self-esteem, you can inflate your department’s budget allocation.  And maybe you’ll even get a pay raise in the process.

And then sometimes you end up with professors who passed through the system in this manner, acquiring lots of self-esteem but very little knowledge.  The experience of taking one of their courses is a lot like watching the Swedish Chef perform neurosurgery.  You’ll see lots of colorful things flying through the air, but they’re all disconnected from any sort of larger body.  Brain cells get slaughtered, but onlookers get a good laugh.  After all, the Swedish Chef keeps his job by making his audience happy.   In the end, the entire experience is a bloodbath and a brain is left wishing that it had some real sustenance.

In spite of this, there are some benefits to having the Swedish Chef perform neurosurgery.  I’m sure that those brains, when tossed with the Chef’s favorite ingredients, would put any hospital’s food to shame.  Waste not, want not.