Attendance in College
“When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course.” – Peter Drucker Can it then be said that when a student becomes obsolete, professors make required attendance policies? In my opinion, a good professor wouldn’t need a mandatory attendance policy because hopefully they will have structured their course(s) in such a way that lack of attendance will unquestionably harm performance on tests and papers. I can only imagine that professors enforce these policies because nobody would come to class otherwise. My paper is going to argue that although there is a correlation between class attendance and high grades, this correlation can only be applied to students that make an effort to understand the material during class. Requiring students to attend a class does not and cannot require them to listen, attempt to understand, or encourage learning. Physicality, ironically said, has no place in the classroom. Lisa Guernsey wrote an article in the New York Times a couple years ago entitled, “To Cut or Not to Cut.” She explains that some professors have taken it upon themselves to punish class cutters, subtracting points from grades for excessive absences. “Many universities,” Guernsey writes, “have policies giving professors the explicit power to fail students for poor attendance; faculty members at Georgetown can give a freshman or sophomore an F for missing more than 15 percent of a course.” More and more universities have employed these compulsory attendance policies with the expectation that these mandates will enhance the student’s academic performance and perceptions of course quality. However, failing a student for missing 5 classes rather than 4 seems to be in opposition to this genuine interest. I have to then ask myself if these colleges are simply looking for better ratings, rather than truly educating their students. Harvey C. Mansfield talks about this in his essay, “Grade Inflation: It’s Time to Face the Facts.” Mansfield writes, “At Harvard, the supposed pinnacle of American education, professors are quite satisfied to bestow outlandishly high grades upon students. We even think those grades reflect well on us; they show how popular we are with bright students. And so we are quite satisfied with ourselves, too.” The most thorough research done on the topic was executed by David Romer, Herman Royer Professor in Political Economy, in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. In his article, “Do Students Go To Class? Should They?” Romer presented empirical evidence that poor attendance accounts for poor performance. In light of these results, he proposed that class attendance be mandatory to boost student performance. However, numerous empirical investigations demonstrate equivocal and often contradictory findings regarding the relationship between attendance and various markers of student achievement (Burns 1). My English 102 professor defended her policy by arguing that face-to-face interaction is an important part of the college experience. She also brought in the notion that faculty and parents alike expect it. It’s also a valid argument that the continuation of this policy is effective for job preparation in that it teaches accountability and self-discipline. Self-discipline being the precarious term, can something required by a higher authority really be self-discipline? An anonymous author argued in his essay, “Mandatory Attendance Policies,” that it is merely a high school power struggle between student and teacher that has some how found its way into the classroom of colleges everywhere. He continues to say that: “This policy teaches students that in his or her future, if attendance at a particular event is important, someone will be there to mandate it. The mandatory attendance policy does not promote self-discipline; it promotes the control of one individual by another. The only way that a student will learn self-discipline and accountability is through trial and error...
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