On Life and Love

An argument for the Rose freshmen.

Luke and O. argue strenuously that Rose freshmen shouldn’t be permitted to take sophomore-level classes because they’re too immature and aren’t capable of buckling down to do the amount of work necessary to pass them.

I say let them struggle.

To institute a system that would place systematic, oppressive restrictions on the courses that can be taken based solely on the number of years attended (because such a system would assume, and therefore ignore, technical prerequisites) would make this place so much more like high school that even I’d be inclined to leave, and I don’t necessarily mind all the mollycoddling that goes on here, nor am I ahead in the curriculum.

Can you get any more condescending than to say, “No, sweetie, you can’t take this sophomore-level class because we don’t think you can handle it without bogging everyone else down with your immaturity, even if you have all the technical prerequisites”? How many people are really going to respond, “Oh, okay. You must be absolutely correct because you’re an authority figure”? Are we going to middle school, or college?

In fact, a professor made exactly such a statement to me in my first week of attendence at Rose last year when I was boxed into dropping Engineering Chemistry I. One can imagine my response, and it certainly wasn’t, “Well, since you know best…” (And for those arguing against my maturity then, I’d still make a prof pull out the letter of the prerequisite law if I want in a class and they’re blocking based on “soft” evaluations of maturity by people that do not know me. Immature, or stubborn?)

From the perspective of a sophomore-almost-upperclassman: When I was struggling to harmlessly vent (Luke has since been officially fired as vent-listener, because he takes me too seriously) about an immature teammate a couple of nights, I was told, “In the real world, you’d be told to deal.” I think the same thing applies here. I suggest that sophomores that have to deal with immature team members (who are not necessarily freshmen) be told to deal. It’s going to happen in the real world, even if the base maturity level tends to rise. So why not get used to it now?

From the freshman-wanting-a-challenge perspective: What’s wrong with letting freshmen (hell, anyone, really) find their own limitations? How are people really going to grow without being allowed to push the present boundaries, both of the system/authority and their own? Give them space to stumble and they will either find their balance or go elsewhere.

For those advocating such a system: How do you set a particular maturity level as a “sophomore maturity level”? Do you require that people be 19 years old coming into the class? Do you require that they never skipped a grade in their entire educational career? Do they have to pass some sort of sociability/communications test?

Do we really want to make education here even more templated and formulaic than it currently is by imposing such restrictions? It’s already a “g33k in, engineer/scientist out” assembly line.

My ultimate point may be this: just because I was at a particular maturity level at 19 doesn’t mean everyone else—even factoring in the geek factor of Rose—is at that same level. There are some that are as or nearly as capable of handling sophomore-level courses as “real” sophomores. Ask, and I can give you names of well-balanced, healthy people that were in sophomore curriculum our first year. Just because I’m struggling now, why should I be petty and bitter enough to hold everyone else back? Jealousy is a very unbecoming shade on me.


  • Michelle

    Isn’t part of going to college supposed to teach you what the “real” world is like? Let the freshmen take the classes they decide to take and learn their lessons accordingly!

  • Luke

    Whee! Part of it is the loss of experience. Yeah, you might meet the technical requirements, but what experience do you have in dealing with profs., doing labs, working in the teams, etc. This is part of the education process here at Rose. It really, really sucks when you get someone who had the technical requirements but not the experience show up in your class and then you have to work with them.

    Makes life better if you can count on all parties in the class to have had similiar experiences.

    Yeah, at work you can’t count on that…but I won’t be paying $30,000ish a year to be at work.

  • stobor

    So, what classes are we talking about here?
    Freshman year, the only ‘team experience’ I really had was physics and chem labs. The only technical stuff that was required in sophomore year was calc (and maybe an anderstanding of OOP, depending on the major).

    If this potential freshman takes the class and realizes they are in over their head, i think they’ll realize it pretty quick and drop. As far as team experience, well, I’m still learning about dealing with profs and working teams.

    Let em struggle.

  • Lissa

    “Whee”, indeed.

    They’ve got to get the experience sometime, Luke. And while I do agree with the annoying nature of dealing with immature folks–and my fuse is much shorter than yours–I’m not paying $30k+ a year to be handed easy teamwork just to have absolute bullshit to form my resume or CV. It takes struggle to progress.

    Makes life better if you can count on all parties to have had similar experiences.

    But really, how true is that? Does “Makes life better” equal “makes things easier”? Of course it makes things easier. But is easier better when the goal is to learn to adapt to difficult situations?

    That sounds amazingly like acruing technical experience over social experience… Hmm. And how absolutely useless is that in the real world, where you’ll be required to step outside of the box that is the Rose-Hulman social experience? This, of course, leads me to think about the amount of “diversity” one can experience at Rose, and how much that reflects life and/or the workplace. But that’s a whole ‘nother thing.

    You didn’t pose a system to put in place to hold the freshmen back, or how that’d be justified in such a way as to keep from 1) needing to rename Rose-Hulman I.T. to Rose-Hulman Institute of Teeny Sandbox Players, and 2) needing to hand out even more scholarships in order to keep this school seeming attractive.

  • Michael

    Let them fn die. I am quite interested to read how someone might suggest this hold ’em back system. I also wonder, in “the real world” (which i am not convinced exists, “But that’s a whole nother thing”) wouldn’t it be valuable to be able to “deal with” “catch up” and/or train those who may be less sociably mature. Also, I def do not know how things work at Rose so let me not assume. But as far as UNC, the incoming freshman class (even for individual majors) is really quite diverse. ANd i think it highly closed minded to assume that they should all be sloshed in together. Can no one else relate to a situation where they were taking a course “at their prescribed level” when the rest of the class seemed damned immature? Also, if it is really so VITAL that some one have dealt with labs/etc before, why not make some course that has a lab the prereq? I *abhor* unspoken prereqs. If a freshman takes a course that is too difficult ofr one reason or another, and they don’t do well, one bad grade doesn’t kill your GPA. and also, Bert told me about these kitties in Japan where they put themin bottles when they are born, and then just feed them with a tube, and have a tubed rammed up their yoohoos for void, the idea is a sort of live ship-in-a-bottle, and I wonder how much the kitty can grow normally when its boundaries are enforced by this glass. also, “but I won’t be paying $30,000ish a year to be at work” but you’re paying it to be growing in the bottle?!
    finally, u sir need to update (yes luke, you may call me kettle, but w/e)

  • Lissa

    I love you, Michael. Have I mentioned that recently? 😛

    Sorry… random outburst. It’s a genetic thing. *shrug*

  • Lissa

    Luke reports that he is done with this argument… I guess we won’t get to hear that plan for the Rose-Hulman Institute of Teeny Sandbox Players after all… 🙂

    You know, I may engage in a bit of intellectual masturbation and play devil’s advocate on this one…

    Or, you know, I could do my homework and my tests.

  • Luke

    Ok, so I changed my mind. Sue me. I’ll give ‘ya the $20 I’ve got. (No not really..that’s for another bottle of Jack)

    Anyway, Michael says, “why not make some course that has a lab the prereq? I *abhor* unspoken prereqs.” Um, that’s the point of freshman year: getting in the lab prereqs…if you skip it…you don’t get the necessary experience beforehand. Now, it isn’t perfect and the freshman stuff doesn’t give you nearly enough experience with these things, but it gives you some experience.
    And I know from experience that most high schools do not provide true lab experience. (Some may, but for the most part I don’t think they do.)

    And yes, I was always placed in situations where my prescribed level wasn’t where I was mentally…it was called the entirety of my education before Rose-Hulman. However, it is those experiences that shaped the way I am personally and on deeper levels than with a few technical capabilities.

    And the cat thing is just gross…I didn’t think that really worked. Anyway, perhaps I don’t want a system that is totally gated and locked in position, but I do believe there should be far more triggers in place to keep the socially and mentally unprepared to not be allowed to move along at whatever their technical level.

    Some restraint is required in all things.

  • Lissa

    Actually, Luke, the cat thing *did* work: I sent O. here, she read the arguments and the kitty thing, and left without commenting… Our points were well-taken, and she was stodgily on your side before.

    I think you and Michael are officially meeting at a T regarding the prereq thing. I understood his argument to be that all prereqs should be written, rather than amorphous, maturity-based things. If you come in with the ability to test out of a lab, then you’ve met that prereq. So why still hold someone back just because they’re a first-year? Your argument that the prereqs are there for a reason is sort of irrelevant to killing Michael’s argument. Yes, they’re there, and of course there’s a reason, but some test out. If you want to make it more difficult, set a prereq that no freshman can possibly surmount unless they’re a transfer student.

    … and then do it for each higher level, including graduate-level courses. Wouldn’t it suck to be in Dr. 7’s shoes and considered “too immature” to take 500-level courses?

    Now, if you want to do away with transfer credits completely to avoid jumping freshmen… whoo. Then we’d find out how small the class sizes at Rose could get real quick.

    Regarding the mental unpreparedness: how, again, do we ascertain maturity levels for class placement?

  • Lissa

    Wait, should I have said Luke and Michael were running parallel and not meeting? Argh, I don’t know these things…

  • Luke

    As I said before having the technical skill does not necessarily mean you should be able to move on. You can’t test these abilities. They have no pre-defined parameters. Just like someone’s personality…how do you measure that with any useful data?

    It’s not there. Having a similar experience set is at least comparable. To test out of a class (any of the freshman classes) we do not require people to demonstrate necessary lab experience.

  • Lissa

    So what are you proposing, Luke? Abolishing pre-Rose transfer credits? In fact, you’d have to abolish credits from any other school, because Rose can’t guarantee that–even at other colleges–you’d have taken an adequate lab for the class. If not abolishment, then how do you propose to determine whether someone should be permitted to progress, since analysis-by-psychologist would likely raise tuition even more, and you’d still have the problem of those “pre-defined parameters”?

    And again, aren’t we talking about testing out of freshman classes? Where’s the lab for Calculus I and II in which we need to show competency? Are you arguing about the labs from the hard sciences, like physics? Like Steve said, does that count as missed “teamwork”?

    “[H]aving a similar experience set” is hardly going to be a valid marker once you get out into the real world. Kitty in a bottle, or a slightly-more-rigorous attempt at creating useful engineers who can deal with difficult people?

    Step up, Luke; make a proposition. What’s the system you’re suggesting be implemented?

  • Luke

    My way around it is to hate anyone that does it. Then say: I hope they all die.

    I would implement it across the board…at all institutions not just Rose.