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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Attendance should not be mandatory in classes where students teach themselves

Jayce Freeman

A couple of semesters ago, I took a class where I taught myself more of the course material than I learned in the classroom. The teacher often discussed random topics which never appeared in the coursework, rather than teaching what was scheduled for that day.

In the class group chat, students often discussed how the teacher taught us nothing. Still, a majority of us strived to show up to class everyday. We did this not out of a sense of compassion or loyalty towards the teacher, but because of a mandatory attendance policy.

If a teacher or class does not help you learn beyond what you achieve by reading the textbook, why should attendance cost 5% of your class grade?

5% is worth half a letter grade. If you are on top of all of your coursework, pass every test and do everything you can to have an A in a class, it is unfair for your grade to be dropped to B because of four absences.

I understand that not everyone can learn a subject on their own. A good professor can take even the most boring subjects and teach them in an informative and engaging way, making attendance a necessity for those who struggle to teach themselves.

However, should good teaching not be enough of an incentive for students to choose to attend a class? If a teacher is engaging enough, is there really a need for an attendance policy?

The point of a class grade is to measure your knowledge of a subject and your ability to apply it to real-world scenarios. It is unique to you, as no one else has the same level of knowledge or enthusiasm for the same topics that you do.

By making a part of the grade that is not correlated with your understanding of the material, it feels like schools are bribing students with the prospect of a letter grade they did not deserve simply because they showed up.

We have all seen students who walk into a lecture hall five minutes before class, swipe their card at the ID scanner to say that they attended class, and then walk back out again. Some students sit in the back of the class and sleep until it is time to leave.

Now, I understand that those habits do not necessarily mean someone has a bad grade in the class. I have had classes that I have zoned out in, and even a few online-only classes during the pandemic that I would log onto and then go back to sleep.

Despite that, I received A’s and B’s in those classes, because I made the effort to educate myself on those subjects. I read the textbooks, watched the module videos online and made study cards and quizzes to test my knowledge of the key topics and vocabulary words.

It is unfair that the students who do not put in the effort to learn or focus in class, who turn in assignments late and fail the tests, have their grades salvaged from an F to a D because of the academic equivalent of a glorified participation award.

If you want to offer students a chance to impact at least 5% of their grade, then offer more extra credit. Offer them something that requires them to think, apply what they have learned and go the extra mile. It might just be the extra push they need to apply themselves.

In the meantime, I will be in the classroom, because my grade still depends on it.

About the Contributor
Michael Cassidy
Michael Cassidy, Staff Writer
Michael Cassidy is a senior communication major. Michael is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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