Survival of the fittest, indeed
Academic qualities necessary for scholarships
Article: Audrey Claude – Contributor
Survival of the fittest, indeed.
I appreciated the article recently published in the Carillon entitled “Social change and theory”. It is about time we have the epiphany that we are all interdependent. We could create a positive academic community where we can depend on one another. However, on an economical level, our systems are built with hierarchy in mind. The most important question seems to be “how do I win?” The “I am an island” idea comes from influences all around us and it literally depresses us. As human beings we are happy and motivated in a community that values and validates us.
What do you think of the encouragement of competition between students by universities? I don’t believe competition is a bad thing; it can push us to find our limits and to know ourselves and others better. Competition can be positive if it is in the spirit of play because in playing, we learn… but it should be excluded from marks because competition is comparative, diagnostic and about being better than whoever else showed up. There is no value in applying it the way it has been in higher learning environments. This kind of competition is, in part, due to a continual comparison between universities. Just as we are individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses, so are the communities in universities “individual” with varying strengths and weaknesses.
Is it possible to teach or learn well enough to consistently outperform the “acceptable range of averages?” It has happened, and will continue to happen, as generations improve their understanding of how school works. However, university marks won’t ever reflect this improvement. Why? When university students perform better, the professor or the university is criticized. So, competency is questioned when marks don’t fall within a certain range on a bell curve. I want to place blame on universities, but we are all to blame because just as universities have graded us, we have graded them. Nevertheless, some students worry that if they share their notes with someone that missed class, that person may get a better grade based on the requirement of an average around 67%. So, even after studying hard, helping a fellow student could cost a pass or a scholarship. This situation needs to be stopped and the opposite, collaboration, encouraged in policy and practice.
I love the idea that because our country doesn’t pay for our higher education that some noble souls are willing to fund students. This shows our extended community values education and improving itself. Still, I wonder about the qualifications for scholarships, not unlike the view in the article “Merit? What merit?” I believe the scholarships are given to those that demonstrate “personal integrity and character, breadth in academic and extra-curricular interests, and outstanding overall potential leadership.” The judgments are authentic to the list of qualities. Unfortunately, those that really need the scholarships won’t have developed those kinds of refined academic qualities because their life consists of university, job(s), homework, and possibly children. Their job, not their parents, is what pays for their living arrangements and school. The homework is enough to keep them busy because they don’t have the level of vocabulary or reading skills needed. They don’t know “how to do school”. The ones that get the scholarships don’t have these problems. Truthfully, scholarships help, but mostly help people that have had supports and might still get a higher education if they didn’t exist. To put this in context, think of the show Shameless.
Finally, I do look more to our university leaders, because it is their responsibility to help change this hierarchy ideal. It will take more than just courage to say to hell with “upholding the reputation” and do what’s in the interest of learning. So, all I can say is for those of you that understand this inequality, keep pushing for change within this system. As a student, the best things I learnt in the last year are that you should collaborate when you’d rather hide. Group work will help you be more efficient with your time if you divide the work. Look at the comments, ask for more information, and change your work the next time.