Imagine, if you will, a perfect student. This precocious individual spends all of his or her free time studying, has impeccable attendance, and always scores highly on tests. Now, visualize said student logging on to the internet to check grades and being devastated to find that, for the first time in the individual’s life, he or she has a B marring the gradebook. Why? The student’s grade was lowered simply because the student rarely speaks in class. The metaphorical student in this example has severe social anxiety and fears judgment from professors and, far worse, peers. Is the sentence a just punishment for the crime?
One might, in response to the issue, suggest that developing a strong ability to engage in a topic and share ideas is a fundamental criterion of any true liberal arts education. This point is made with a certain level of validity for several reasons.
Here at Concordia College, contributions — both inside and outside the classroom — are valued greatly. As (probably) every Cobber is well aware, BREW is the rock upon which faculty and students build an education. In case you happen to live under this metaphorical rock, the BREW mission is to Become Responsibly Engaged in the World. The guidance offered at Concordia ensures that each student is completely prepared to use his or her talents to affect positive influence everywhere he or she goes. Part of the preparation process is encouraging class participation by awarding grades based on the discussion and ideas raised by the individual. This is important because, in many careers, people will be required to contribute effectively in order to hold a position.
Does a student necessarily need to be able to speak in a classroom in order to prove that he or she has ideas that can change the world? The answer, in short, is no. For one, there are many majors, like music and the arts — programs for which Concordia is renowned — in which the eventual career path simply does not require one to be extroverted. Indeed, talented musicians and artists are often introverts. Why, then, is Concordia able to lower grades in classes that these students may be required to take?
There is a fundamental difference between a student who does not care about class and a student who has genuine fear of scrutiny, and it is the duty of professors to discern this difference. Perhaps the answer is to find ways to encourage active participation without punishing those who fear to do so. Professors could have students submit a form with information regarding their level of comfort with sharing ideas in class, then the professors could work with the students on an individual basis, based on the information that was submitted.
What must be remembered above all else is that however benevolent the reasoning, no person has the right to infringe upon another’s comfortability.
This article was submitted by Johnny Wagner, contributing writer.