The students are currently blogging about why they are doing my course and why they are not science majors. I ask them to do this (for credit) to make sure they can work the technology, but also because I am interested in the answers.
This year, more than before, many of them are saying that they are are doing my course because it is easy. I wonder why it has got that reputation. Each year, I have serious s*** from the students after the first class test or two because they do not like their grades. Likewise after the first blog period. So I work hard to get them up to speed — and most of them do get up to speed. And I like that.
But I could make things tougher. I think this is the biggest issue in US education today: how high a bar to set? What should our expectations be? If I set my bar too high, they will hate science. Too low, and I will rob them (and society) of a proper education.
This problem has worried me from the start. My thoughts in 2011 are largely unchanged. If the course has a reputation for being easy, then clearly I can stretch things further.
Just how hard to push students is I think the gorilla in the room. Faculty shy away from serious discussion of it. So do the institutions. How to bring in student dollars but at the same time take the students places they don’t want to go?
Maybe I should have a classroom discussion about this?