Education Should Be More Than A Punched Ticket

Here is a recent, and disturbing email exchange with a prospective student.  The student is an education major and apparently approaching graduation, since the course in question is an exit course.  Exit courses are designed to evaluate the student’s critical thinking skills, as well as their oral and written communications skills.  Simply put, these courses seek to evaluate the student readiness to face the world.

The emails are presented exactly as sent, errors and misspellings included, except that I removed the student’s name.  The course is a short summer course, meeting from 1-5 pm, twice a week, for six weeks.

My name is (name of student removed) and I am enrolled in your summer B course. I know this request may be out of the question but thought I would ask. I enrolled in the course prior to my schedule being changed unexpectantly so instead of getting off at 11am, I now get off at 2:30pm. I understand that the present is very important in order to succeed and the overall respect for being a student in this course. But is it any way possible to stay in this class and email classwork or bring classwork to your box?  If so, was the amount of points or highest grade to be expected to receive for the course with this circumstance? The reason inseatd of changing course, is because I think the class in interesting and I heard about previous courses you taught.
Please and Thank you,

My Response:
It appears you will miss half of the class.  I would suggest that you find a course that is a better fit with your work schedule.

I understand, but hypothetically speaking if I'm not able to find another open course to for the criteria to graduate will I be able to get a C+ or better with all coursework completed with being physically absent from class.

Thank you, 

My Response:

Thank you

This brief exchange is rather disheartening for a couple of reasons.  First, it highlights two very different perspectives on the purpose of a university education.  Is it for acquiring knowledge and understanding, or is it simply a ticket that needs to be punched so one can move one? Second, this is a future teacher who appears willing to short change her own education simply to graduate.

I look back at my own educational experience and recognize that I started with a clear lack of maturity.  Fortunately, universities are protected environments designed to help students grow at their own pace.  I too worked my way through college and often was faced with the challenge of conflicting schedules.  I made some bad choices and hit some very large pot holes, but as I approached graduation, I began to understand the importance of the learning experience. 

In the years that followed, I earned a master of arts degree while working full time and going to class at night.  Later, I returned to academia full time, earning a doctorate in history.  I often remark that I went back to school, after spending years in the business world,  simply to awaken parts of my brain that had been put to sleep by Corporate America.  More importantly, I learned that education is not a destination, it is a journey – a lifelong journey.  If we stop learning, what is left?

Sadly, there are far too many people who fail to understand that a diploma is only piece of paper and that piece of paper is worthless if it is not built  upon a quality education.  Even sadder, this particular student will probably be a teacher in a year or two, and how can someone who does not savor the acquisition of knowledge plant the seeds of intellectual curiosity in others?

Punched tickets have no value once the destination is reached.

© 2014 by David Lee McMullen, All Rights Reserved.


  1. David and I share progressive politics while cherishing classic values in education.


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