If a Diploma is Handed Out at a University, Does Any Employer Care?

Posted: December 7, 2011 in UWO
Tags: , , , ,

Let’s be honest, Western is a school of entitlement.  There are those here that think that Daddy’s credit card should be enough to get them an A+ average and their pick of jobs upon graduation.  Those are the same people who believe that Richmond Row is a good place to spend both their Tuesday nights and that $2000 that just magically appeared in their bank account.  The trend is that they expect something to be given to them on a platter just because they have the money to pay for it.

Yes, I graduated. Now give me a job.

But let’s get back to education.  What do we expect out of the money we put into this university?  I think it is fairly safe to say that most university students look to their university career to prepare them for a real career after graduation.  The expectation being that they will graduate with the requisite skills necessary to enter their chosen profession, or at least with the skills to get into a professional or graduate school.  The next question then is how do we determine that we’ve actually got those skills?  I mean, sure, your diploma technically states that you possess the required skills, but anyone with an ounce of intelligence will tell you that a diploma is given out to all students who meet a bare minimum standard of competence.  Another astute observer might note that some graduates who wave their diploma around like it’s a Nobel Peace Prize are actually as dumb as the proverbial door knob that they can’t quite figure out how to operate.  What we’re left with is that darling of graduate admissions officers everywhere, the transcript.  Yes, the transcript that holds record of what mark the professor has given us.  It is possibly the truest reflection, other than being able to actually demonstrate knowledge in practice, of what we have taken out of our university experience.

So, let’s adjust our expectations based on this reality.  Initially our expectation was to graduate with adequate preparation for whatever society-mandated slavery we choose to sell ourselves into.  If we can only judge that preparation by grades, our expectation then becomes that we get high grades out of university.  To put it in different words, we expect that upon graduation our transcripts will be a flawless run of A-pluses.  This twisted logic is given some much needed justification when we consider that we pay over $5000 in tuition every year for the privilege of having stuffy old men pound things into our skulls for at least fifteen hours a week.  Essentially, we pay the university for a service, that being preparing us for real life, and we expect them to deliver to the tune of a glittering transcript that even God might be proud of; it is a trade of money for grades.

This is the face of entitlement. Be scared.

Now, this smacks of the kind of entitlement usually reserved for hotel heiresses with daddy issues and that usually results in multiple failed TV shows that cumulatively had less viewers than that night-vision sex tape that was “leaked” on the internet.  This places the onus on the university to try and teach someone skills that they will be able to apply to the real world even if said student spends the entirety of their time trying to destroy their brain cells with alcohol, pot, and other recreational drugs.  This viewpoint completely ignores the necessity of hard work.  Ironically, the people upholding this viewpoint are likely ignoring hard work in reality too, not just in theory.

In reality, all our tuition is buying us is access to top-quality professors and resources.  For our parent’s or OSAP’s hard-earned money we get to come to campus, use the library, and study with distinguished individuals in their respective fields.  And what we take out of it is up to us.  We can spend that time learning skills that might someday make us slightly wealthier than the Joneses, we can get a Masters in English and not get hired by Wal-mart, or we can completely waste our time fist-pumping at Jack’s on a Monday night.  What we get out of these resources is entirely up to how much effort we put in…that and our respective mental capacities.

However, there is one thing that we can safely feel a sense of entitlement towards in our university careers: we have the right to have our hard work recognized.  We have the right for professors, TAs, and other beings shackled with the ball and chain of paper marking to give us credit for completing the assignment even if we don’t complete it well.  Essentially, we have the right to hand in a paper addressing the question and not receive a mark of zero in return.  No matter what is put on the paper, the act of completing the assignment is worth at least some marks.  By all means, fail a student because they did not argue well, make a point, or are just generally inept at writing a paper, but students are entitled to having their hard work recognized.  For example, if the essay question asks the student why the sky is blue, then the student should get credit if their paper tackles that question in some manner, even if it is completely wrong.

Now, before you point out that this is essentially giving students marks for free, remember what it is that we expect out of university.  We expect university to prepare us in some way for our chosen career.  We expect university to give us a true evaluation of whether we are prepared for the real world.  Now, are you so naive to think that hard work isn’t necessary in the real world?  Because the fact of the matter is that being a lazy dirtbag like you were in high school isn’t going to get you far when mommy and daddy kick you out on your ass.  You will be forced to work hard.  You will be forced to give your interpretations and answers to questions.  What giving these “free” marks does is act as positive reinforcement in the breeding of skills that are going to benefit you in real life situations.  These marks are saying that if you work hard you will get farther than someone who doesn’t put any effort in at all.  They are saying that it is better to try and possibly be wrong than to not do anything at all.  These are valuable lessons that people can take on board for their futures.  Not teaching them this just breeds the next generation of people who think that they are too good to wait in line at the bar or should get free drinks while inside because they once said hello to the bartender when they passed him on the sidewalk.

The long and short of it is that money doesn’t entitle us to squat.  It enables us to take part in the wonderful world of higher education—sometimes even when we’re so dumb that if we took a standard admissions test we’d be sent back to grade five—and potentially reap its rewards.  But like the farmer who reaps his crop, we must work hard for that reward.  Thinking otherwise only entitles us to failure.

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