BORDERLINERS: FAIL OR FAIL NOT – A TEACHER’S DILEMMA
Am I giving an academically at-risk student favors in blindly passing him? Letting a student pass a class in which he’d barely learned anything, in the hopes that he will catch up later and benefit from having moved along, or flunking a student and making him dig in at least a bit, was a difficult call- and an age-old question. This is especially true with borderline cases. This is when the “sound” discretion of the teacher comes in, the plus and the minuses, playing around with the numbers. This is law school. Should we still play with the numbers or just stick with it? Would it be better to pass all the students who are in the borderline cases to give them the chance to catch up later and do good? I am inclined to say that law school is not like in elementary schools where students who fail subjects in a grade still get to go (are socially promoted) to the next grade even though they’ve failed. I think socially promoting students is morally wrong. I know, there’s a huge debate about social promotion (i.e. the kid’s self esteem, etc.) but for me we’re not doing students any favors by passing them now when they haven’t mastered course content just to fail them later because the gaps in their knowledge prevent them from mastering the next grade’s content. That’s not being respectful of our students. In the same vein, it’s unfair for law students to let them go and face the tough bar examinations giving them false hopes because we passed them in our subjects. I think the bar has to be set somewhere. It’s horrible to fail students who, for whatever reason (be it learning skills, worklife, family situation) do not demonstrate proficiency. But I think it does a greater disservice to give them a false sense of their abilities. Barely three weeks from now the semester ends, unfortunately, I have to face the same dilemma I have a year ago. A number of my students in my present class are in the borderline. Last year,...
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