Thursday, April 06, 2006

Little Chance Of Understanding The Response


College students make jokes about it, but it can, at times, be a problem. "It" is a college professor who doesn't clearly speak English.

State Representative Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport, told the House Higher Education Committee Wednesday that it's no laughing matter.

"I've had numerous students talk to me about losing their financial aid because of this problem," remarked Heidgerken, "Numerous students talk to me they went an extra year to college to avoid a certain professor."

And while we expect college instructors to know their stuff, Heidgerken has another final exam in mind. As he put it, "To take a speak test, and only then, after they take a speak test, are they allowed to be in the classroom teaching."

Thank god they don't have a "speak test" for State Representative, though. Bud'd be outta luck. Is a "speak test" anything like a "speech" test?

Heidgerken's carrying a bill that would require instructors at public colleges and universities to speak English clearly. His bill, as originally drafted, would allow students who can't understand their professors to withdraw from a class, receive a tuition refund and have any record of the course expunged from their college transcript.

The bill in it's original form would call from a faculty members being removed from the classroom if at least 10% of the students complain that their speech is not comprehensible.

Among those who testified was James Malone, a student at Saint Cloud State.

"I attempted to take a required math course during my first semester, dropped the class after having difficulty understanding my professor," explained Malone.

He said the next semester he tried to take the same course, by picking a different instructor but encountered the same problem, "Asking questions in class or even out of class was pointless, as I had little chance of understanding the response."

Call me a cynical bastard....but I suspect that, with two separate Professors teaching the same material, Mr. Malone's difficulties probably had more to do with not understanding the math in his required course.

In fact, reading the article, I find myself sincerely and deeply doubting the seriousness of this problem - especially in Minnesota. What sort of "crazy" accents have they got up there in such high supply that you can't take a math course without needing an interpreter?

I enjoyed Russ Stanton's response to the parents.

Stanton suggested the Heidgerken's bill, if it became law, would allow any student failing a class to use the language barrier as an excuse to drop it without consequences.

And, he used a personal anecdote to suggest that the professor's "poor English" is often an excuse for poor performance.

"Last semester my daughter didn't get a very good grade in biology, and when I asked her, she said she had trouble understanding the professor," recalled Stanton.

"The only problem is, I know the professor - he served on my government relations committee - and I can understand him quite well."

Speaking as someone who was a college student, we're not above a little tomfoolery to get us out of classes or to excuse our responsibility.


At 8:27 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

What about highjinks?

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

I completely understand the frustration of taking a class where you don't understand the professor.

One Northwestern calculus class that I took was taught by someone with a rudimentary (if that) knowledge of the English language. It made the class exponentially more difficult to understand.

That being said, the last thing we need is more legislation. If I were not so lazy in college, I could have figured it out, and avoided the class. And if I thought it was a problem at NU, I could have chosen a different school.

You don't legislate to subsidize laziness.

[Note to all: Just because something bothers you, or because you don't like something, does not mean that the Government should fix it for you.]

At 9:01 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

That "note to all" is sort of my guiding star, politically.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

Scott -

I've always preferred shenanigans, myself.


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