How to Game the System—and Lose February 4, 2010Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Education.
Tags: higher education
Kevin Carey explains how he squandered 4 years at a University and still received his degree.
I spent phenomenal amounts of time during my four undergraduate years on wholly nonacademic pursuits—drinking beer, hanging out with my girlfriend, playing poker (thank God the Internet hadn’t been invented yet or I’d be doing this still), watching the 11 p.m. ESPN SportsCenter, watching the 2 a.m. ESPN SportsCenter, killing time between the 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. SportsCenters, and so on. […]
I wanted to take art history because I had a vague sense that it was the kind of course freshmen took. But that course was full. I took history of architecture instead because it seemed similar, it was available, and the line was short.
Six of my credits could be earned in phys-ed courses. So I took lifeguarding for three credits, which was good for a summer job. A one-credit “Advanced Basketball” class involved little basketball instruction, but it was a great way to get access to scarce court space for five-on-five full-court games in the middle of the day. “Weight Training” did the same for the weight room, and “Intro to Karate” filled out the slate.
Binghamton had a science distribution requirement, but you were allowed to take some courses pass/fail. […]By the end of the semester, I calculated that I had to answer 20 percent of the final-exam questions correctly to pass the course. Since the exam was multiple choice, with only four possible answers to each question, that wasn’t much of a challenge. I also took Drawing I that semester because I was told there would be nude models. (There were, but not the kind I had hoped for.) […]
I waited until my final semester, when, despite a carefully planned strategy of non-course-taking, I still needed eight credits to finish. I signed up for “Gender, Policy, and Law” because I figured there would be a lot of women in the class. (There were, but not the kind I had hoped for.) It also met in the middle of the afternoon on Tuesdays, perfect for a lifestyle centered on four-day weekends and the 2 a.m. broadcast of ESPN SportsCenter.
Carey admits his responsibility for his careless attitude toward education; but seems to also blame the University.
An institution that routinely describes itself as “the best public university in the Northeast” shouldn’t hand out four credits for a 10th-grade C. It should aspire to be more than just a knowledge vending machine of courses to be chosen at semi-random with little in the way of guidance or forethought. It should look for opportunities to teach undergraduates more than its peers, not less—indeed, that’s what phrases like “best public university” ought to mean.
But if someone is willing to devote this much effort avoiding real work, it is hard to see how modifying the rules will help much.