Monday, July 20, 2009

Love Correction?

My guess is that since the invention of grading academic work, students have disputed with professors over their marks. But during my college years, more and more professors were noticing a shift in the way these conversations were going. Here’s the change: if a student was not satisfied with her grade, she would bring it to the attention of the professor with the expectation that the grade would be changed. After all, students are consumers and consumers know best! Some professors were even getting phone calls from parents of students complaining about grades.

Since working with college students for several years, I’ve noticed that the shift that had taken place when I was an undergraduate is now commonplace. Disputing and having grades changed (for the better, of course) is simply part of playing the “college game” well. Everyone is doing it. I was thinking about this recently as I was reading through the book of Proverbs. This one caught my eye:

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1).

Eugene Peterson translates it this way in The Message:
“If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it— how shortsighted to refuse correction!"

Now, I’m sure that there are grades worth disputing. Students shouldn’t be reluctant to talk to professors about why grades were given. But this passage reminds us of something about academic faithfulness that is often missed: real learning comes through discipline and correction. We can’t shortcut the process by arguing our way to better grades. If you find yourself wanting to dispute a poor grade on a paper or test with a professor, begin the conversation by first asking: what could I have done to make this better?

Keep this in mind: if you hate correction the Bible calls you stupid. Don’t be stupid, instead, consider a bad grade as an opportunity to grow in wisdom.

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