Thursday, 10 August 2017

A Lecturer Lectures

Today I stumbled upon an article for The Telegraph, where a lecturer slates modern students for using 'Extenuating Circumstances' as a 'sick note', or in other words, an excuse which is not justified. Here is the link to the aforementioned article:

I cannot explain the anger and disappointment that I felt when reading this article. It is unacceptable that an educational 'professional' should disrespect students in such a way.

I would venture to guess that Mr Fischer has not experienced any of these circumstances that he condemns as not 'reasonable', namely 'Asperger's, autism, anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, dyspraxia.' I come to this judgement, because if he did know anything about how they affect a person's ability to function daily, let alone handle high pressure situations such as exams, then he would not make such a controversial comment. I accept that I may be a little biased in this view, as I myself am a recipient of special considerations due to anxiety and depression, and in my first year I was granted deferrals of exams because of bereavement. However, one thing I want to make very clear, is that I have never used my disability to manipulate my deadlines or results, contrary to Mr Fischer's allegation 'students who had some "disorder" [were] extraordinarily able in using their disability to their advantage.' To an extent, I agree with Mr Fischer here, as I do not feel that my problems are serious enough that they affect the majority of my work, and my command of English. Yet, his flippant referral to 'some "disorder"' really does show off a great ignorance. Whilst I accept my problems are not as debilitating, this may not be the same for others. It may be true that anxiety or depression may not affect one's ability to write a sentence, but it affects what that sentence may be, and Mr Fischer especially should know, as a lecturer of English, that what you say is of vital importance. A mental disorder can severely affect a person's way of thinking, for example blocking creative flow, and what is produced from this state may be completely different to what would be written when of a clear head.

Perhaps even more disturbing is Mr Fischer's dismissal of universities as institutions that should offer support for their students. He claims 'it's their job to set a high standard, and it's the students' to reach it, whatever their difficulties.' Universities are extremely high pressure environments, and have no structure to support that is ridiculous. In fact, it may be important to consider whether these disorders that he dismisses may be a result of the stress caused by university rather than excuses.

I can understand Mr Fischer's frustration to an extent, where he feels that students are given an easier ride when they are undeserving. Whilst I know people who do definitely deserve extenuating circumstances, I also know people who have been granted allowances when they should not have. However, I still think that Mr Fischer's argument is very small-minded, and his anger is misdirected.  He seems to idolise the past as a time where 'reasonable adjustment' was minimal, assuming that this was a result of better guidelines and better students. Despite clearly identifying changes in the system, he seems to ignore other factors. For example, how many more students now attend university, and how so many more people have the confidence to apply. Perhaps the reason why a disorder like autism was not previously accepted as extenuating circumstances, was that those who have autism never felt like they would have the chance to go to university. As well as this, in the past, a lot of mental illnesses were not named or properly diagnosed, and this lack of awareness could also easily account for their absence from 'reasonable adjustment.'

Either way, times are changing. Instead of berating students for increasingly using extenuating circumstances, we should be cheering their efforts to continue with their studies despite whatever problems they are facing. The fact that more people have the confidence in themselves to attend university and get a degree is an amazing thing, and we should celebrate that.

I suggest Mr Fischer should focus on his teaching; the fact that his students don't know what makes up a sentence doesn't speak highly of his methods.

No comments:

Post a Comment