Tuesday, February 3, 2009

You Fail At Life

Lowered expectations

One of the more onerous and tedious things I have to do this semester is a three-hour Physics lab on Tuesday afternoons. It's not as if the material is challenging, but the process of collecting and analyzing data, and then putting it all into a handwritten lab report is about as fun as watching linoleum peel.

It gets worse when your classmates and lab partners fail at life. Today's lab was ridiculously simple: Determine the density of an object and determine what substance it was based on a table of known densities of metals. This meant weighing the objects, and then measuring their dimensions to determine volume. A third-grader could have handled it.

I had to take a few minutes to help some of the other students figure out how to read a vernier caliper and a micrometer; then I spent a moment showing another how to set up the statistics package on his TI-89 calculator. Just helping out, not cutting into my own data analysis, everything was copacetic.

Until one fella at my table couldn't figure out how to read a ruler.

Take a moment and let that sink in. Could. Not. Read. A. Metric. Ruler.

This is a lab for a Calculus-based Physics course.

I might as well tell you all now that the rest of this post will be a semi-coherent rant. I'm seeing red and on a roll now.

How the hell does a kid make it through Elementary School unable to take a simple measurement? How many brain cells does it take to put a ruler against the object one's measuring, figure out the proper number of centimeters and millimeters, and keep going?

Semi-literate illegal immigrant construction workers can read a yardstick or tape measure, and use those measurements to frame a house perfectly! But an American college student can't? I am just so thrilled at the epic failure this presents on so many levels.

1) This ass-hair's parents were allowed to reproduce in the first place.

2) He grew up in a public school system more concerned with inculcating a morally relative worldview in him than teaching him critical life skills. He can show all kinds of concern for the environment and people different than him, he can tell you Bush is Evil and 9/11 was an inside job, but he can't take the sort of measurements that would allow him to build his own home or provide for himself doing anything but asking "paper or plastic."

3) The college lowered its standards to the point where someone so lacking in basic comprehension and skill could get in. Higher education no longer requires active, seeking minds; it only needs warm bodies that can score Stafford Loans to continue to prop up the schools' bloated budgets and sustain the tenure of some of their useless, entitled faculty.

I am sick of being held up, of classes' progress being continually slowed, by slow weak and uncomprehending little shits who only got into college because Mommy and Daddy wanted them to, and waste time and brain on suds and bong resin. Parents are losing so much on the investment in their kids' education now.

This is part of why I chose Mechanical Engineering as a major. It's supposed to be a rigorous, challenging academic discipline, one that weeds out the also-rans and requires academic talent and hard work. It's not some limp-wrist soft option like Sociology, which leads only back into the classroom. Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

The problem is that I'm still on the lower rungs of the curriculum, in the calculus and physics classes that weed out many of those who aren't up to the academic rigors of engineering. These classes are tough, but they're only made tougher by the lack of progress occasioned when weaker students have to have the concepts explained and re-explained repeatedly.

Then you get idiots who shouldn't be in college in the first place. Not everyone can be an astronaut.


Epona said...

No, really. tell us how you feel DEEP inside. But i agree - feels like you're back in elementary school finishing everyone else's homework in the team project just so you can get a decent grade. sucks major donky balls. huge, salty ones.

jon spencer said...

Please tell us if the caliper and micrometer were digital too.

Bellaforte said...

Fuck you, I'm a Sociology double-major and I love my field. :-p

But I do totally understand your frustration. Try it in Psych/Soc/Anthro/Gender when most of it *is* relative and therefore *require critical thinking skills* and people keep asking for simple answers.
It's NOT simple. That's why it's about people.

mustangally said...

My sentiments exactly. The idea that one idoit should be the measuring stick by which the class pace is set is a communistic idea. I say thin the heard. Point. Sight. U know the rest.

GATC said...


If you are into a rigorous ME program without the morons in the 200-level classes you describe, there is a cure. It is called the Virginia Military Institute.