March 15, 2006

Self-Destruct Button

One of the bad aspects about my job is seeing students push the self-destruct button. Most of them have some sense, especially when you discuss with them the likely effects of the choices that they make, but some of them are just unbelievably irrational.

A small minority just refuse to take a realistic view of their studies, and view their choices entirely in terms of the most optimistic outcome that could possibly occur. When you point out to them that their study skills have not led to good results so far and taking on even more options this term is likely to result in exams being failed and them having to leave the University, so many just say things like "Oh I didn't work hard before, I'll work harder now" (exactly what they said last time) and other things that are entirely unsupported by the available evidence about their abilities.

I guess that they must be thinking something like "Oh my parents will be really mad if I fail the year, the only way I can avoid big trouble is by making these choices", but they don't see that they are increasing the chances that they will make an even bigger mess-up to a near certainty.

I had to put my foot down the other day. I had to say to a student that I could not ethically support his choices by signing the forms that would likely lead to the destruction of his university career. I hate doing that kind of thing, I believe in letting people make their own choices, and if they are going to choose stupid choices then so be it, but they should be very well-informed before making that choice. I have no wish to try and impose anything on a student, the whole point of my role is to show the students options for how they can achieve what they want to achieve without self-destructing in the process. But when you see one so clearly hell-bent on destroying his degree with irrationality and arrogance, how can I stand by when he did indeed want the degree?

I did point out that he could still make the choices he wanted to by getting someone else to sign the forms, but I hope the fact I couldn't ethically bring myself to sign them made him realise just how much I believed his preferred choices were likely to doom his short university career.


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