Thursday, September 17, 2020

“Made to Be Broken”

From August 7, one of the best episodes of This American Life I’ve heard: “Made to Be Broken.” (I’m catching up.)

Listening to this episode reminded me of a time when I tried to get someone in authority to break a rule. I had a student who was not going to pass the course. It was not mathematically possible. I had tried to persuade her to drop and make a fresh start next semester. No, she was determined to continue.

One day past the deadline for dropping a course, she told me that she realized I was right. I got on the phone and asked that an exception be made to allow her to drop. Every rule and requirement on campus had some room for exceptions, I said. The student had made a difficult and smart choice, I said, and there was no reason for her GPA to be burdened with an F (zero) from her first semester in college. No, no exception would be made. She would fail the course. Thanks, authorities.

[These events took place before drops were done online, and before retaking a course removed an earlier grade. It would have been a simple matter to process a drop one day after the fact.]

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