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Student demonstrators in the rainy weather protesting outside of Coffman Memorial Union on Tuesday.
Photos from April 23 protests
Published April 23, 2024

Coasting students fail to prepare themselves for the future

I have noticed an alarming trend throughout my five-year academic career: A majority of students ride the curve and do not apply themselves.

I know weâÄôve all had classes we didnâÄôt care about and banked on the curve to allow us not to try as hard, but what the curve really does is inspire mediocrity.

Instead of forcing students to apply themselves and learn about subjects they arenâÄôt interested in, the curve allows them to do the least amount of work possible and skate by with the passing grade of a C or, in the case of the Carlson School of Management, a B or B+.

While this system seems all well and good to students now, it actually robs them of the valuable experience of having to do jobs they donâÄôt like and do them well.

Once these students graduate and enter into the work world, how will they take on a task they are not interested in or donâÄôt want to do? If practice makes perfect, and students have not had to practice working hard on boring subjects, they will not be close to perfect in their jobs.

This brings me to another thing that I have seen in my years as a student: the lack of involvement by students in the classes they take. Now, I must say that I have had general education classes and not tried or really participated in them, but now that IâÄôm about to graduate, I wish I had.

It pains me to be the only student in a class of 30 who is willing to raise his hand and provide some form of answer to a teacherâÄôs question. While this is acceptable in a 1000-level class, it is almost inexcusable in an upper-division course.

These students are juniors and seniors but they still act like freshmen by not trying. For example, in my 5000-level communication class in which a majority of the students are writing their senior paper, the students constantly fall asleep and do not participate in the discussions the professor tries to start every class period.

In an attempt to get some students to participate, the professor asked one student, “What do you think about this?” The student âÄî who I could see was on Facebook âÄî answered, “I donâÄôt know, I have no opinion.”

This has been the trend for the past two years of my academic career, and it bothers me. I assume most of these classes are in the majors of many students, but still they decide to ride the curve instead of applying themselves and refuse to answer questions when the professor asks them.

This refusal to try by a majority of students who I have encountered in the past few years poses a serious question for them to consider: Who do you think gets a raise in the working world? Do you think the employee who never has an idea in the meeting, never raises his hand and is never informed about what exactly is going on, gets a raise?

Or in tough economic times like these, do you think this person will keep his job over the employee who applies himself, raises his hand with questions and ideas and knows exactly what is going on because he reads the material for the meeting? Even for the students who always ride the curve, IâÄôm sure this is an easy answer.

So what are our students really learning here at the University of Minnesota and other public universities around the country? IâÄôm willing to bet that the overall lesson taught at most of these institutions is that if you try just hard enough to get by, youâÄôll do fine âÄî and if you get in to the Carlson School of Management, youâÄôll have a 3.0 if you do the average amount of work.

Our administrators need to recognize that these systems might make the University look good on paper in our pursuit of being one of the top research universities in the country, but these practices are in fact churning out students who are more and more accustomed to mediocrity on a consistent basis, just like me.

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