Hypertext and Commitment

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Jesse Ives adds to a post with this comment

The “Game” of life is a serious one, and goals can be important. Of course that’s one of the problems people are facing; a lack of goals. I’m guilty of it myself, but that’s neither here nor there. If a person chooses a path often they can’t go back, but sometimes it’s not worth going all the way along a certain path for one reason or another (perhaps another has opened, or some other aspect has shed light on an undesired result) they choose to adjust or switch to another.

Life is hypertextual.

One question I would ask is can a person commit without some sense of goal. One can have a goal, a mind for an outcome, and this establishes path (Gawain). One can proceed on a path (Buddha, Spiderman) and acquire a sense of outcome.

I don’t want top players. I want students like Jesse.

6 responses to “Hypertext and Commitment”

  1. susan says:

    As is the way of human nature, we took off on placing blame rather than seeking answers to your “problem.” However, blame can often be another word for reason, and sometimes that’s the best place to start.

    To address your questions:

    1. Your list of ethics is just wonderful. But why would you expect a diversity of people entering a new environment to all hold these values? Every student has a different reason for being there. This leads to your question of

    2. Goals. Everyone enters a path with a goal; it can range from passing time to becoming a professor. Your list of ethics is one that the successful student observes. I would think that this is also something that he/she applies to all approaches in life–not just academic pursuit. So what you’re asking for here is a personal trait or learned behavior. Will they inventory the rooms or run to the cheat sheet? Talk to their ma.

    3. Drop/Dropped/Withdraw time appears to be a concern of yours. It looks to me like the ability to drop a course with 50% reimbursement is approximately two weeks after the start date of the course; last day to declare audit status is approximately four weeks into the course; and last day to withdraw with notation is about two weeks shy of the end of the course. I assume that it’s this last date that’s annoying, particularly because for a couple of months a student may not show up but has been just as lax about making his decision official. Yeah, I’d agree on this one that it’s too far into the course, excepting unusual circumstances. Not notifying the instructor or counselor of this decision goes hand in hand with not caring about studies.

    4. Should teachers be allowed to drop a student? Here you have my sympathy but not support. Unfortunately, students are paying for a service and it’s up to them to use it well. He/she also knows that flunking out is an option. Allowing a teacher to do more than suggest or offer assistance or warn is akin to an insurance company dropping a client for either making claims or being risky by the numbers. This is not a perfect world and you can’t expect or demand a classroom full of Jesses. Tough break.

    As you say, choices are paths; paths take you different places; timing and choice is everything.

  2. Steve says:


    The service metaphor, I would argue, is inaccurate because it relies on a consumer premise and an impossible relationship. Learning is not consumed. Deck builders and clothing retailers provide a fine service, but the result of those services require nothing from the consumer. I might concede the drop issue, but cannot concede the ability to judge a proper course to counter what I consider disruption. I would drop to eliminate the distraction. I don’t consider it cruel, since disattendance is pretty much a drop anyway.

  3. susan says:

    Although there’s not much to draw from that would be an exact analogy, I still think that the insurance issue (which is also not a consumable product) is a viable one. What an insurance company offers is a frame of mind (knowledge that the future and material property is protected from monetary loss), just as schools offer a frame of mind (knowledge of knowledge). What the user gives in return in both cases is money. What the insured can do is help protect the property himself and maintain it and keep it safe–or, he can smoke in bed. What the student can do is ensure his receipt of knowledge by maintaining an attitude of learning–or, he can be careless and learn nothing. You can pay and get nothing back in either case; both examples can be impossible relationships, no?

    I don’t consider it cruel to drop student; just as I don’t consider it cruel to flunk him. But I would consider it wrong to arbitrarily drop a student for lack of interest. If the burden is placed on the student from the beginning of the course that no backup help is available beyond xxx, and that they are responsible to keep current themselves, then the responsibility is theirs, and you needn’t feel any obligation to go over material again in a classroom–or on your own time–to please him. (This, I take it, is the disruption you speak of.) Nearly all the instructors (I’ve had) at Tunxis have been more than willing to bend over backward; methinks they’re beginning to be taken advantage of and resentment festers.

    Another reason why I don’t feel it’s a good idea to leave the power in the hands of the instructor to drop a student is that it merely reinforces the bad behavior and attitude: “You’re soooo stupid and irresponsible, you don’t even know you are, so I have to make the decision for you.” (Stupid here refers to attitude, not necessarily comprehension of the course subject.) Isn’t there often allowance in the syllabus that missing x number of classes constitutes a failing grade? Does this have any teeth to it?

    Perhaps an avenue that needs further following is that the admittance standards (or acceptance for a course) are too low to begin with.

  4. Steve says:

    I understand the reservation about the drop issue. Lots of these policies are indeed arbitrary. Again, the problem goes to back to how many students go on attendance shifts. If the majority of students in the class miss and miss often, I’m stymied as to how to continue when a majority cannot move to the final leg.

    Let’s look at your insurance analogy. When I purchase insurance (unless I get it from State Farm), I receive a measurable object in return with some amount of measurable worth (worth is key here). The policy itself. Economically, you cannot get a policy gratis because of outlay. But what’s the outlay for a college course? A student pays 1,000 for a course. Let’s say the margin here is 50%. What do we attach worth too? Content? Or the worth of the potential, say some algorithm that would estimate the content + application in any given field +- skill level? This could actually be done. But should we?

    I argue that learning should be free. I think it’s a solid ethical position. It may not be practical. But you know me. I don’t typically act on practicalities. But I do think learning is a practical good. In other words, if learning were offered free of charge, the cultural dynamic would change. It’s fun to think how.

  5. susan says:

    Free? You mean for everyone–not just basketball players?

    I’m sort of following you on the worth equation, but even here, there’s a few roads to take…

    I’d say that a college education can, above all, bring you into a new level of thinking–analytically, logically–that is, if you bother to go to classes. There’s also the application aspect–for a specific field, or often, just as a credit on a resume. Was the learning of any value then? Or just the end result.

    But there’s another way of looking at education. There’s actually no real reason that education need take place in an institutional setting. One can learn everything that’s taught (not the dynamics, but the text of a course) in a classroom at one’s own kitchen table simply by reading and practice. So learning is in effect free and available to all. It still comes down to attitude and desire on the part of the individual.

    Free institutional learning at the college level–and actually, I see it happening in the future–could go many ways. On the one hand, those who can’t afford it but have the brains would finally get the opportunity. On the other hand, if you have lackadaisical students who are willing to blow the full price of a course, what might their attendance be like if it were free? I think that you get about the best cultural mix at a community college because it’s already the cheapest, so that wouldn’t change. And MIT still ain’t gonna be free; people will demand and pay a price for a Beemer–whether it’s better than a Honda or not.

    Another future I see in academia is outsourcing teachers (be forewarned!) as we move into online learning. What difference would it make if the teacher is plopped into a cubicle on campus or is physically half way around the earth?

  6. Jesse says:

    Free institutional learning is unlikely at best. With increased costs associated with higher learning institutions every year, how can we expect the government (Or some extraordinarily generous individuals) to provide education for the masses which are also increasing at a rapid pace?

    Considering the amount of money available out there now for the ambitious and hard-working, it is possible for some to receive an education for free or at least with a reduced cost. But the majority of people will end up in debt or draining other resources in order to invest in their education.

    “Invest in their education” is the way college is portrayed now. If it was free it would no longer be an investment, simply an extension of the existing public school system. Looking at things from that point of view, why not force people to attend college? If it were free, it could be government mandated. Just one thought on the Free Institutional Learning front.

    Motivation is important in any task, and learning is one in which this is no exception. You can put a book in someone’s hands and chain them to a desk but if they don’t want to learn then by Jove, they simply won’t.

    I agree education is a commodity, but it is hard to put a worth on something so intangible. Is one students experience and amount of learning different from another’s? Yes. Do they pay the same amount? Maybe.