At Kean University, students are dying (as it were) to get into Norma Bowe’s class “Death in Perspective,” which has sometimes carried a three-year waiting list. WSJ Online reports that “On one field trip to a local coroner’s office, Dr. Bowe’s students were shown three naked cadavers on metal tables. One person had died from a gunshot, the other from suicide and the third by drowning.
“The last corpse appeared overweight but wasn’t; he had expanded like a water balloon. A suspect in a hit-and-run case, he had fled the scene, been chased by police, abandoned his car and jumped into the Passaic River. On the autopsy table, he looked surprised, his mouth splayed open, as if he realized he had made a mistake. As the class clustered around, a technician began to carve his torso open. Some students gagged or scurried out, unable to stand the sight or the smell.
“This grim visit was just one of the excursions for Dr. Bowe’s class. Every semester, students also leave the campus in Union, New Jersey, to visit a cemetery, a maximum-security prison (to meet murderers), a hospice, a crematory and a funeral home, where they pick out caskets for themselves. The homework is also unusual: Students are required to write goodbye letters to dead loved ones and to compose their own eulogies and wills.
“Sure, it’s morbid. But graduates of Dr. Bowe’s death class and others like it across the U.S. often come away with an important skill: the ability to talk frankly about death. Continue reading “The popularity of death studies”
Virtually all universities now allow some form of “academic forgiveness,” allowing students to tinker with their grade point averages. While nearly everyone is familiar with
grade inflation, fewer know about grade-point-average distortion. This happens when institutions allow students to selectively omit poor grades from their GPAs, thus offering a new, manipulative path to greater retention and graduation rates, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. “We recently investigated academic policies in eight public institutions across a Southern state, and used this sample to explore how institutional rules play a role in inflating students’ GPAs by creating incentives that undermine students’ work ethic, weaken the comparative value of the GPA, and waste human capital.
“Common academic practices give students opportunities to withdraw from classes without grades, use simple pass/fail grades that don’t count in their GPAs, or repeat courses to replace old grades. What’s new is transferring control over these strategies to students, without much oversight. By selectively employing these registration policies, students are now empowered to overuse academic forgiveness and “manage” their recorded grade-point averages.
“Five percent of the seniors in the study used academic forgiveness policies for 25 to 50 percent of their entire college coursework. Predictably, as GPAs go down, more and more students use these strategies. Over two-thirds of seniors who were in that 5 percent had C-range grades. But overusing second chances is not limited to struggling students. We found that even a few graduating seniors with A-range GPAs used forgiveness policies to keep 20 to 35 percent of their coursework out of their GPAs. Continue reading “Academic forgiveness”