X Marks the Spot Unless Y is Necessary

At the school where I work we are, on occasion, “encouraged” to help students pass. This can get kind of complicated.

In a nutshell, the school where I work is connected to a major private university. Students who graduate the high school with high enough marks (and, quite frankly, those “high enough marks” are pretty low) get automatic recommendation to the university without having to take the university entrance exam.

Those who fail have to take the exam. Because of this, the marks the students get in their third year of high school (US 12th grade) can make or break their university entrance. Because the university needs more boys (long story) the university encourages the high school to send more boys.

(Note: My suggestion is to advertise the university as “overrun by beautiful women” and the problem will take care of itself. Hell, even I might go back to school. If, ahem, of course, I were not married I would. Of course.)

In my case, I’ve only had pressure to pass one student and that was resolved by math and illness.  One of the ways a student can fail is to miss 30% or more of the total classes. I had a student do that and suddenly found myself in a meeting with lots of school brass who told me sad stories about the boy. They had the saddest, most serious faces you’ve ever seen. Finally, someone asked me when the student had been absent. It turned out that one batch of absences coincided with him having the flu. Students with the flu are banned from school for several days which means their absences don’t count.

You’ll rarely see a happier group of men unless alcohol is involved. I told them if he handed in his final assignment they could go ahead and change the score. He did and they did. At no point, I might add, did I ever get a chance to talk to the student. It was all done through proxies. Even when he turned in his final assignment.

The worst ever pressurization (so to speak), and in many ways the most ridiculous, happened to a friend and former colleague. She failed a student who’d only shown up to the first two classes and then never came back again. It’s no joke to say she couldn’t have picked him out of a police line up. She would have said “the empty space at the end of the line of boys looks like him” and that would have been about as well as she could have done.

However, the then brass approached her and asked her to pass him. She quite reasonably pointed out it wouldn’t be fair to the students who’d actually attended class and actually done work for her to pass a guy who resembled negative space.  After more pressure she agreed to pass him if he did the assignments.

A couple days later she was told that it was too difficult for him. She explained something along the lines of “that’s what happens when you are negative space and not a student”. After more pressure she offered samples of other students’ work as examples.

A few days after that she got the assignments back and, well, lets just say there’s angry and then there’s “I’m going to nuke the whole f@#king world and laugh while it burns” angry.

She was angrier than that.

The student had not only copied the sample assignments word for word, he’d also copied her comments. In the end she threw the marks form at the people pressuring her and said something along the lines of you write what you think he deserves. In the end, the student passed.

I don’t know if, during this process, she actually met the student.

I just hope they gave him a perfect score. That would have been the perfect end to all that.


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