Last week’s Coast Report headline was quite the attention grabber. Indeed, a student can erase up to 30 units of Ds and Fs from their GPA. On the surface, this appears wonderful, but there are troubling repercussions.
To say I was appalled to learn of this policy is an understatement. It not only impacts Orange Coast College, but it is statewide policy for the community college system under California Education Code.
In my class discussions regarding this issue, students initially were ecstatic, the happiest I have seen them in my mathematics classes all semester. But as we discussed the long-term ramifications of this to their lives, the mood quickly changed.
I have a unique perspective of this well-intentioned idea as a professor with many years of teaching, from the secondary to university levels, and as a businessman with interests in Southern California and abroad.
This policy, with all its good intentions, is an absolute disaster from both a pedagogical perspective and the global economic realities in which we live.
The state of California is, in essence, saying we have a standard of excellence in which a 50 percent failure rate is acceptable. Not only has our educational system lowered the bar, there is no more bar. It is true that the student will need to retake the courses in which he or she earned a D or F and that the grades will remain on their transcripts.
The poor grades however will not impact his or her GPA, thereby giving a student who failed up to half of their classes the opportunity to leave community colleges with the same GPA as students who never failed a single course. GPA is in effect no longer a measurement of student effort or indicator of their potential success upon transfer to the four-year level.
Of more concern is how this impacts the student if he or she sees this program as a viable alternative for less than acceptable performance. Many learning of this policy will see it merely as one more “get out of jail free” pass, with no consequences.
You could not be more wrong. You need to realize the decisions made today, tomorrow, next semester and onward will impact you the rest of your life. This dismally low standard set by the state is not looking out for your best interest. They mean well, but it has dire consequences.
Take for example the intense competition for seats at our four-year schools. The student sitting to your left may have received a letter that although they were extremely well qualified and accepted for entry to their intended UC or Cal State this semester, state budget cuts meant these schools had no more space.
If there is no room for those with impeccable grades, will there be room for you and your transcript filled with Ds and Fs? Who is going to get that highly coveted slot upon transfer? Looks like you will be at the back of the line.
From a business perspective, the state of California is in theory setting you up for future failure. With such abysmally low standards defined as success, we are teaching our students that you can in essence fail in life up to 50 percent of the time and be forgiven.
As a businessman, this is not reality. In the extremely competitive, highly globalized world market in which we live, failure is not an option for you. You need to understand that there will always be competition for jobs in the marketplace.
For students who find this academic renewal program attractive, you will be up against others who are more qualified, better trained and just plain hungrier for success than you in the business world, an environment not so forgiving of your transcript loaded with failing grades.
My advice for you educationally and professionally is to strive for complete and total excellence. Poor grades are not an option. You and you alone are responsible for your future success.
We are a nation of forgiveness and second chances; it is part of the fabric that makes this country the greatest, most blessed nation on earth. This policy of wiping away up to 30 units of Ds and Fs however is a state-sanctioned standard of failure. The real world, the world outside this insular bubble of academia, will not grant you this same generosity.
Dr. Tab Livingston