In indigenous cultures, I’ve just learned, it’s not uncommon for 10% of the young mostly men to not return from their initiation ritual, that many would not survive the cold nights with no food or water or whatever great challenge they faced, that was part of the process, a kind of natural selection, maybe even a bit of a population control measure, perhaps not one thought out as such, I doubt the tribal elders read Darwin.
Suddenly I don’t feel nearly so bad about that 50% drop fail rate in the Biology I for Majors course I taught for many years. That’s one of the reasons I was chosen to teach it, why all of us who taught it were chosen to teach it, because we had the capacity to be completely heartless bitches (even the guys, although I only remember one teaching it, and yeah, he can be a bitch when he has to) and flunk half the class, no matter how much they cried.
And no, we did not set out to flunk them, no matter what they might have thought.
In fact, we drove ourselves half insane trying to teach them biology at a level that would get them through the next year's work, really, we knew, we discussed it, there was no doubt, really, they needed to go though their year of chemistry before they even walked in the door of that BIO 1 class, but that wouldn’t work with the curriculum, at all, so we just had to deal with it. We didn’t even really question the chemistry thing, curriculum and time constraints were a given.
So we figured out how we could teach them the basics of all of inorganic and organic chemistry, while they were taking Chem 1, but just what they needed specifically for cell structure and metabolism and genetics (haha) in three or four weeks, and oh yeah, we’re going to teach the scientific method in that time frame, too, and what it means to be alive. By week four or five, we’ve got to be into cell structure, we’ve got to do all of the basics of metabolism so that by weeks seven through nine we’re covering genetics, which will leave room for the evolution and ecology we’re also going to cover, because the dinosaurs teaching BIO 2 are stuck in taxonomy.
What we ended up with, of course, was the need for half a dozen or so professors who would walk in there and do the I’m going to kick your ass and kick it hard boot camp speech on the first day and then be willing to flunk half of them, or at least talk a bunch of them into doing an academic withdrawal and taking the W so you wouldn’t have to flunk them, because sorry, there is no free lunch here.
You’re in college now.
Thing is, during the course of my career, I dealt with lots and lots of kids who got trophies for showing up, or kids who couldn’t much read or do math, kids who’d been shuttled through an extremely broken educational system, and it’s just as broken in New England as Oklahoma, imagine that, and to top it all off, kids who’d been told they had to have a college degree, no matter what, and that healthcare was a solid career, and no matter how awful I tried to tell the a career in healthcare is, and I had one, for fifteen years, still a good portion walked in the door with dreams of driving a Maserati in their minds after they finished that degree and became doctors.
Mom said they could be anything they wanted to be, after all, and they had a trophy to prove it.
Yeah, initiation rituals aren’t what they once were. I’m glad I didn’t have to kill any of them, only break their hearts a little. I hope I didn’t break their spirit too much.