Attendance credit: A call to reason

Imagine a mother of three who has returned to Weber State University to finish her degree. She has car payments, a mortgage and even a teenager. What if one of her children suddenly gets sick at school and she has to leave before her next class to take care of them?

No big deal, right? But what if her courses at the university have attendance policies? Her grade would be negatively affected for tending to more important matters.

Contrast that situation to a young sophomore who plays football for the university. The team has an out-of-state game, so he misses class to play a game he’s enjoyed since third-grade recess. The attendance policy is not allowed to interfere with his hobby.

Have you ever heard the term “excused absence”? It’s a term usually associated with high schools and junior highs, and is typically related to athletic events or school-sanctioned organizations. It means that somebody in a special group gets to miss class without academic punishments.

So if you don’t belong to one of these distinguished groups, you never get the chance for an excused absence.

This is, of course, assuming your class has an attendance policy.

When I bring up attendance credit with students from other universities, they react as though I’m telling them about my Huggies: “You’re 24 years old. Why on earth do you have attendance credit?”

Note: not every class has an attendance policy.

I understand that in-class discussions are important, and there are also in-class assignments. But, as adults, if we choose to skip class, we also choose the consequences.

There shouldn’t be a double jeopardy. Missing class has natural consequences, so we don’t need to be docked points from our final grade for missing a lecture.

And most of us want to be here — that’s why we empty our bank accounts each semester. Removing attendance policies won’t suddenly empty the classrooms.

Last semester, I had one course where I understood the textbook much more than the professor. So I skipped most of the classes to read the text. I did all the homework, did well on the tests and did well on the final exam. Thankfully, attendance didn’t matter in this particular class. When I showed up for the final, I wasn’t asked what my attendance percentage was. I was asked about the subject matter. My attendance in that class never did, nor will it ever affect, my ability to understand the subject, because I took it on myself to study vigorously.

After all, if somebody has a degree in physics, a potential employer may think, “They probably understand the principles of physics, which is the qualification we are seeking,” as opposed to thinking, “Wow, they were at a geographic location where physics was discussed — and often! They’re hired!”

Since we pay for our educations, it should be up to us how we take advantage of it.

Punishing me for missing class is like a cable company charging extra when customers miss the top-rated shows on TV; the cable company may think everyone should see these programs, but, since the customer is paying them for a service, it should be up to the customer to decide how they will take advantage of said service.

If you think about it, students pay the school for services. Then the school pays instructors. This makes WSU the employer, instructors the employees, and students the clients.

Once a business is paid, it should back off and let the paying client use its services as they choose. Can you imagine if your cable company dropped a bill off at your house every time you missed Sunday Night Football? Personally, I would think that how I use my paid services is none of their business.

Life happens. And honestly, sometimes we just want a day to be outside. If we miss class, that’s OK. Let us deal with real-world consequences, not the made-up junior-high consequence we call “attendance credit.”

If we can learn the material, do the assignments and pass the exams, we’re succeeding. Nobody will ever care how many lectures we’ve attended. If we fail our classes because we’re skipping and not learning the material, let that be a lesson in itself.

Plus, removing attendance credit may weed out some of our classmates who talk the whole time anyway, which would benefit the rest of the learning community.

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Posted by on September 24, 2012. Filed under Features, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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