Answered Dec 20
I’ll offer a student’s perspective, relating to adults. I’ve been in plenty of full university lecture theatres and classrooms kept very well under control by authoritative (in a nice way) teachers.
Unfortunately, prior to that (several years ago now), I spent a hellish two semesters at an institution that I’ll call Low Rent Polytechnic. It was supposedly an introductory course, to get people prepared to be successfully studying at degree level the following year. It turned out to be dramatically lower-level than I had expected, in terms of material, and could be described as remedial.
Some days it was hard to believe I was in a room full of adults, who were on the hook for student loans, and were choosing to be there. Their mind-blowing classroom behaviour arose from severe lack of basic personal insight and multi-directional low standards and expectations. The behaviour of the following alleged adults is a logical progression from the mass failure to instill basic civility in primary and secondary school, as well as mass poor parenting…
Zero selectivity in enrollments, and zero evaluation of the appropriate level at which to place a student. Hordes of people with appallingly low basic skill levels, and very little basic life experience, who were totally unaware of that. At the other end, there was also zero mechanism to avoid enrolling someone at a level so low that it was insulting to their intelligence. Now put those people together in the same classroom. And watch the open bullying by the least skilled/knowledgeable students against the most skilled/knowledgeable one.
Students were placed together in a group of twenty. The same people for every class (which totaled nineteen hours of class time per week). This meant that there wan’t any respite from the same disruptive and/or bullying individuals.
Bully-Girl (in her early 30s) instantly attempted to make the group into a personal social circle, revolving around herself.
In the first week, there was mistake in allocating the group, leading to twenty-one of us. The course coordinator walked in, explained to Bully-Girl (the extra person) that she needed to move to a different group that was short, and all lived in her area (for carpooling possibilities). Bully-Girl got offended, and actually yelled, “You suck!” and slammed her books hard onto the table. In front of the entire rest of the group (playing to an audience). The result? The coordinator coddled Bully-Girl, and let her stay in the present group. And, weeks later, did repeated additional coddling to try to prevent her from dropping out, despite the fact that she was also too low-skilled to legitimately pass.
Bully-Girl openly targeted me for her disruption and verbal insults, trying to establish that I was actually the incompetent one, to distract from her incompetence. She also got quite personal and creepy. I suspected that, she may have hoped that I would drop out in order to get away from her. A course manager failed to communicate any consequences for Bully-Girl if she kept it up, after I complained. Fortunately, Bully-Girl dropped out fairly quickly, after alienating basically everyone.
Constant implications (and even direct statements from staff) that the group was supposed to all be personal friends, and get to know each other well on a personal level. This wasn’t to be nice – it was a desperate, condescending dropout prevention strategy.
Speaking of which, there was a very heavy-handed effort to retain students, regardless of how bad their behaviour was, or how poorly they were doing in the course. So they stuck around, continuing that behaviour on and on, for the whole year. A couple of them got visibly more angry over time, in response to numerous failures of tests and assignments, and fed into each other’s indignation.
When a student didn’t show up for a few days, the course managers would actually call the person at home, repeatedly, to coddle him or her to start coming again.
One staff member openly told everyone that, it was our obligation to basically monitor classmates for dropout risk, and to help retain them.
A couple of staff members actually spoke to students with a tone of voice that would be insultingly condescending if you used it with a four-year-old child. Thus encouraging the tone that people weren’t really expected to be adults.
An attendance roll was allegedly taken, with a stated “requirement” of showing up 80% of the time. People would be there solely to be marked present, without self-motivation to learn anything. (In at least one case, I don’t believe the 80% rule was enforced).
A few people had patterns of being late whenever the did show up. One clown sat in class one day, rambling about it was important to have breakfast before arriving. So that, at 9 AM, he would be down the street at McDonald’s, having a leisurely breakfast. Openly acknowledging that that resulted in chronic lateness, but claiming that it was worth it. Oblivious to the disruption of 15 or 20 minutes late. He would even be late in returning from the midday lunch hour.
There was zero communication from staff about this. And worse, they would stop talking to the class as a whole, approach Late-Boy, and nicely tell him everything that he missed by being late. Including almost verbatim repetition, while the on-time people sat and waited.
At the other end, there were instances of people just getting up and leaving, halfway through a class. Including a few group-leavings, and failing to even tell the teacher that they were leaving.
Seating arrangements. This included a ridiculous “U”-shaped arrangement. To be close to the teacher and the whiteboard, I had to sit at the end of the “U”, and turn my head sideways. The point of this arrangement was apparently to get the students to pay attention to each other for “teamwork”, which devolved into loud socialising.
Disruptive duos. Pairs of students who always sit next to each other, so they can have loud, irrelevant conversations for the entire class. When separated, some will actually stay quiet. There was zero effort to separate these pairs until near the end of semester two, when a new teacher was hired. By then, it was too late.
One of the disruptive duos included a guy in his 20s, who would play video games, or do random web-surfing, and literally screaming at the top of his lungs. On and on and on, without letup. He set the overall volume level of the room, for the other incessant talkers.
In addition to practically non-stop screaming, he would put earphones in while watching music videos. Including a couple of occasions of singing along at top volume.
One time, I politely asked that clown to get his noise level down. Twice. Then, I picked up my papers, and moved as far away as possible, while remaining in the room. When he noticed, he started screaming at me (past several other people), asking if I thought there was too much noise in the room. The teacher didn’t even seem to notice. When I mentioned it to another classmate, she acted like I was just being grumpy and intolerant.
I was also bullied by a teacher, who accused me to giving off a hostile vibe, because (after that incident), tried to sit away from other students, preferably without anyone immediately on either side of me. She continued bullying me when I explained that it was to get distance from various disruptive duos, especially the screamer.
Handing out test and assignment grades in class, at the beginning. Certain people would then be visibly fuming in anger and fear. Also, every failed test and assignment had to be redone until they passed, so they couldn’t just move on yet.
Have fun being the good student (whom everyone knows is passing easily), and being forced into “teamwork” with two students engaged in the aforementioned anger and fear.
People resitting tests did so together, and thus knew who had passed or failed. Inspiring more grudges and bullying of the good student.
On another case, assignments were handed back, with the instruction to place it back into a box if they had passed, or keep it if they had failed. So people could watch each other, Inspiring more grudges and bullying of the good student.
In one case, a test was done on done on computers close enough together that a student was able to lean over, look at another’s screen, and loudly announce the near-perfect score. Inspiring more grudges and bullying of the good student.
That computerised test was for very basic literacy and numeracy levels, and was done two weeks into the course, without any specific preparation. Multiple students got rather agitated, and felt insulted by their low scores (i.e. the folks who had been totally unaware of their low basic skill levels).
Class sessions where a teacher sat down with an individual one-to-one, to work on basic mathematics worksheets, for fifteen minutes or longer. Then moving on to another individual. While failing to teach the class as a whole.
In one incident, I arrived, as per the schedule, ready to be taught material, and found a teacher sitting with several of my classmates, sequentially hanging over their shoulders for extended periods. Because they couldn’t write a simple assignment on their own time, without help. I had already written mine.
Class sessions where a so-called teacher arrived, and asked if people had assignments due for other classes. Then told everyone to work on those. In a room with computers, so they all just randomly surfed the internet, played with FaceBook, and socialised very loudly. While the so-called teacher quietly stared at his computer for an hour.
Early on, there was a very small, very brief “teamwork” task, involving arranging different-coloured plastic Based on the idea that, these people were “kinesthetic learners” who cannot understand verbal descriptions or even diagrams The class Bully-Girl made a point to walk over to me, and deliberately refuse to follow the simple instructions solely to bully me, right in front of the teacher, who said nothing.
In one “teamwork” exercise, groups of four or five were supposed to give brief presentations. Because I didn’t have any established clique for self-choosing, the teacher tried to force me onto a team with the three least-competent, worst-behaving students. I refused, and somebody else took that slot. On the day of the presentations, he was unable to do it, because the three clowns whom I had rejected, didn’t bother to show up. And didn’t contact him with excuses. My guess was that, one or more of them had the idea, “I don’t wanna talk talk in front of the class, so I’ll let the other people do it, and I can pass simply for being on the team”.
Low Rent Polytechnic staff branded ME as having a bad attitude towards “teamwork” for having rejected the no-show clowns.
Other class sessions a certain so-called teacher arrived, with zero material or preparation, and just rambled on about “don’t drop out”, etc, while expressing open contempt for the students.
Other class sessions consisted of going over a small quantity of material again, for the benefit of all the people who didn’t bother to show up the previous week. Or who had been present, but had been too busy disrupting to pay any attention.
I had to sit there, while my so-called peers were taught things that, in some cases, I knew when I was twelve years old.
There were moments when I looked around, and I was the only student even attempting to pay attention to the teacher. And moments when a teacher would get a horrified facial expression, didn’t even try to continue teaching any material. One of them seemed almost shell-shocked, and a few times looked at me with a rather apologetic, embarrassed expression.
Despite that, there was zero discussion of the connection between bad classroom behaviours and eventual failure. Or really, any clear discussion of failure. And zero discussion of how the behaviours would be perceived by eventual employers.
Overall, there was a complete failure to communicate any standards or expectations of adult civility. And total failure to have any consequences for anything. Nobody was ever told to leave the room.
Some of these people openly took the attitude that, since they were adults, they were entitled to do as much loud, irrelevant talking as they wanted. With zero insight that, adults should exercise basic consideration for others, and ability to pay attention and learn.
The aforementioned new teacher near the end was the only one who made any attempt to get things under control. And she eventually sunk to screaming in rage at a roomful of alleged adults.
In the final week of classes, the aforementioned screaming guy was carrying on, as usual. So, instead of teaching the class that new teacher repeatedly went over to him, screaming at him, desperately trying to get him under control. The consequence? They shoveled him into a degree programme the following year (and he either failed or dropped out at the end of that year).
On the final day, during a test, a student got up, pestered the supervising teacher until she allowed him to leave the room (via a door leading outside the building), without any escort available. He was the type of idiot who just keeps repeating a range of inappropriate demands, confident that he will wear people down as they get tired of saying “no” to him. Which worked in this case. Ten minutes or fifteen minutes later, he returned with a cup of coffee (which had required him to go to another building) And resumed the test. In full view of other students. The consequence? They then shoveled him into a degree programme, and dragged him through two years before either failing him or booting him out.
Despite the lack of entry standards, mass low skill levels, and mass behavioural issues, it seemed impossible for anyone to fail the course. Due to a government funding and “performance” crackdown, there was intense pressure to get the dropouts down, and the pass rates up. Including intense pressure on frontline teaching staff. And telling those alleged adults to start acting like real adults might hurt their little feelings, leading to even worse attendance or dropping out.
Low Rent Polytechnic had a tradition of very low standards and expectations. And very poor big-picture performance and outcomes. And lacked any tools (including individual or institutional professionalism or motivation) to deal with the government performance crackdown.
They were were retaining and passing people in that course, handing them a certificate claiming they were ready for degree-level success. And some wouldn’t last even a single semester at university.
One teacher directly told me that I needed to accept that, all of those people were legitimately good students. And that, I had would be expected to tolerate their behaviour for another three years. And that, each and every one of them would end up with degrees and professional jobs, where their behaviour would continue. And that I would have to tolerate the same exact individuals as colleagues, doing all of the same behaviour, for the rest of my working life.
I suspect that, ironically, conditions might have been better previously, with disruptive students dropping out without the heavy-handed retention effort.
The lack of academic and behavioural standards result in many, many people borrowing piles of taxpayer money, and being subsidised with even bigger, non-repayable piles, for zero ultimate benefit to anyone, except Low Rent Polytechnic. Some of them are unemployable, and won’t even repay their loans. These kind of outcomes are what provoked the National government to start the aforementioned funding/performance crackdown, which has impacted all higher education (including students) in the country.
Also on the lack of professionalism, Low Rent Polytechnic teachers and managers had zero consideration for the fact that, I was paying and sacrificing to pursue education, and was being cheated out of it. One of the managers also told me that deserved open, repeated “tall poppy syndrome” bullying as punishment for having a decent vocabulary and other language skills. As well as for the fact that I’ve lived in places other than the town where I was born.
To top it off, three of them (two managers and one teacher) violated the law by telling me that didn’t have any recourse when I complained of an incident of highly threatening sexual harassment. Which openly occurred in class (perpetrated by the test-leaving clown whom they later shoveled into a degree programme).
The teacher angrily specified that, I would “forced”into “teamwork” tasks involving the harasser (and other male classmates) physically touching me, and that I would be academically failed if I resisted. She also put her hand on my shoulder, knowing that I didn’t consent, just to emphasise that I was expected to tolerate non-consensual physical touching by random people (including the harasser), without any respect for any boundaries. And zero consequences for a harasser provoking me to actually fear indecent assault.
One manager claimed that, the harasser just wanted an intellectual connection, and that I would benefit from being personal friends with him.
The other manager actually used the words, “sexual harassment”, and stated that, simply tolerating it (including non-consensual physical touching) is a normal basic requirement for professional job environments, and for classrooms. And that, I was the one who didn’t belong in either place, if I thought otherwise.
All three of them were middle-aged females. I should have recorded the conversations.
Multiple different Low Rent Polytechnic teachers and managers directly told me that, they didn’t have any problems whatsoever, on any scale. And that, the above-described atmosphere was completely normal, and representative of all higher education (and of successful students and professionals). They claimed that there was something wrong with me as a student, and as a human being, if I was in any way dissatisfied. They directly claimed that, despite straight A+ grades (since it was so easy), that, I had failed as a human being, for even daring to question what was going on.
It was absolute, relentless, deliberate gaslighting. I was afraid that, perhaps all higher education actually was this bad. Or that my own perceptions were somehow mistaken, and/or that actually had failed as a human being.
All of these shenanigans happened at a Crown-owned institution, that has been in business since the 1980s. And they recently received a government/taxpayer financial bailout to keep operating.
When I walked into a university the following year, the difference was like night and day.
Sure, there was still some cellphone use and web-surfing, and a few instances of obnoxious people.
But, from the very first day, it was clear who was in charge of a lecture theatre, or classroom, or laboratory.
Higher education is a filtering process. It isn’t just about teaching information or thought-processes. A degree also symbolises a certain level of persistence and self-discipline. Turning off the television or video game, and writing an assignment on your own motivation. Showing up to 8 AM lectures, on one’s own motivation, without being called and reminded or personally coddled. Being able to function in a crowd of people who aren’t all your personal friends. Picking up a book outside the classroom. Putting the telephone away, stopping the irrelevant conversations with the person next to you, and paying attention in class. Taking responsibility for the outcome. Acting like a halfway civilised, functioning adult.
Sure, some highly-educated people are also highly dysfunctional (my supervisor says I’m one of them). And some people without much formal education are intelligent/knowledgeable/insightful and well-functioning. But, a degree at least shows that you are not a member of the out-of-control horde that I’ve described here. And it’s partly a social ticket to get away from being surrounded by that horde.
An important last point regards personal and socioeconomic issues. Some of the behavioural problems I’ve described involved people with significant privilege, in terms of parental income, support systems, and so forth. They were blatant spoiled brats, including those well into their 20s and even older.
On the other hand, I come from a background of instability, poverty, violence, bigotry, and other social ills. And I’ve encountered a student at university who had a significantly worse background than me, yet who was remarkably mature for her young age, diligent/hardworking, and pleasant.