Saturday, March 29, 2014

Last of the Links from Frankie Bow

Frankie Bow sent in this article that is almost funny enough to make it into the Sunday Funnies post tomorrow. 

Apparently, a professor taught the regular version of general chemistry to a class of students enrolled in the remedial/introductory version of the course.  KHOU I-Team investigates!


Frankie writes,
My theory: Nguyen taught the correct class. The students found it too hard. Straight-A Snowflake complained to the science chair, who realized that the pass rates in the class were going to be abysmal. Science chair had a little chat with instructor Nguyen, who realized what she needed to do if she wanted to get rehired the following semester.

Other theories?


  1. Maybe it was a test to see if anybody was reading the syllabus, and the whole class flunked?

    But Frankie's theory is probably more plausible, given that administrators interviewed claimed that "“She followed the syllabus and taught from the 1405 textbook,” but/and also that “She was new to the introductory level.” That probably adds up to some version of "she didn't dumb it down enough," which perhaps Nguyen translated to "she taught the wrong class" (I wonder if there are some ESL issues operating here, though there needn't be; I've taught a lot of Nguyens over the last 10+ years, most of them native or near-native English speakers, often born to parents who were educated and held middle-class jobs in their own country, but ended up in blue-collar ones here, while doing everything they could to help their offspring land back in white-collar land. Still, we might be seeing confusion between "she taught the wrong class" and "she taught the class wrong." We also might be seeing a student try to take advantage of a professor she perceives as vulnerable because the professor is not an nth-generation American).

    Whatever the underlying story, I'm not terribly sympathetic to the "A student" complaining that her GPA was ruined by getting a B in a core course presumably distant from her major. At least when I was in college, that was part of the experience (and one way of confirming that one had chosen one's major wisely, while learning a bit about how people in other disciplines think).

  2. The student's complaint reminds me of what I often heard while I was teaching: "I have good grades in all my courses except yours." (Yeah, right, and I'm Napoleon Bonaparte's grandfather.)

    Maybe the student in the news item was required for the first time to actually earn her grades by working for them.

    1. There are other possibilities, however remote they may be.

      One, the prof might have been coerced into "confessing" she was at fault. I remember how my department head and the assistant head threatened me with severe disciplinary action if I didn't immediately cease and desist having my students address me as "Doctor", even though I had just earned my Ph. D.

      Another is that the prof actually did teach the wrong course. About a decade ago, a certain Canadian university suffered the embarrassment of a prof who faked her credentials and had absolutely no idea of what she was teaching. She was there 2 years before the uni figured out something was wrong and had her sacked. (Even my institution had a case like that. A certain department head suddenly resigned under mysterious circumstances. We found out later that she didn't have the degree she claimed to have earned.)

      Equally as disturbing, though, is that the TV station behaved as if the student was automatically right and it went after the prof and selected administrators. So much for due process.

  3. I think your theory is likely, since something much like it happened to me 12 years ago, when I was a struggling tenure-track assistant professor. I was assigned to teaching a class on energy and the environment to 80 liberal-studies majors, who are ed-school undergrads studying to be K-6 teachers. I was given no briefing at all, and I will confess to having made a BIG mistake: since my Dad was a teacher and an intelligent fellow, I assumed that teachers are intelligent. So, I taught another section of my regular energy-and-the-environment course.

    The ensuing hue and cry made me wonder whether I'd be lynched. I learned something important: that university administration will cave in to mass organization by students, no matter how bogus their complaints. I don't know what hurt most: subsequently finding out that liberal studies majors have the lowest SAT scores, and graduate to the lowest-paying jobs, of any students in the university; watching them laugh heartily when I showed them the video "A Private Universe," when it showed some 9th-graders struggling to understand something; or having a class of 80 in which over 90% did not drink deeply, but spit out vigorously, and knowing they were headed toward careers in education.

    The story did have a happy ending, though. I survived the experience (barely), got tenure (barely, only because of my research), and subsequently became department Chair (because no one else would do it). I then had the great pleasure of assigning the former incompetent Chair, who'd do anything to avoid conflict, to teach that class. I said, and in all sincerity, "I know you can teach that class better than anyone else in the department." When I said that, my smile was a fatuous thing, dreadful to behold!

    So, despite the lost battles, we do win some of the wars.