In Paragraph City, just about every class receives a Dorothy. Dorothies are students who have lost touch with the real world that flows around the college classrooms here in Paragraph City. Dorothies replace reality with a set of beliefs:
- The semester begins somewhere around the 10th week of the semester.
- It’s pointless to do homework, attend class or take tests until the semester “begins.”
- Extra credit grows on trees, the kinds of trees that sprout from the fertilized complacency of professors who have stopped caring about anything.
- Professors want us to pass their courses bad enough that they will do almost anything to get us to pass.
- It’s the responsibility of our professors to come up with make-up work to replace the regular work that was assigned before the semester “begins.”
- If we want to pass a course bad enough, we will pass the course. (This, last tenet, by the way, is where Dorothies earn their name. Dorothies always wear figurative ruby slippers which can take them back to Kansas if they simply believe it deeply enough. Kansas is a mythical land where students pass classes without working.)
So I had a conversation today with the Dorothy assigned to one of my classes. This was the fourth class he attended (as we near mid-semester), arriving 35 minutes late and plopping into a chair, waiting for me to make it as if he had arrived on time. Groups were in the last stage of working on a logic problem, so I told him to read over the problem and consider whether he really wanted to continue with the course. After all, the grade is already 30 points established and this Dorothy had not done any of that work, waiting as he was for the semester to “begin”.
After class I told him that he had already missed one of the two only extra credit options in the course and that the only way he could get a C in the course would be to get 100% on all the remaining work of the semester, including the team project which has already progressed so far that his team had dropped him — leaving him to research and write a separate report of his own.
Now, there is no way that he will do any of this. He has missed all the class instruction, hasn’t completed one assignment yet, and has come to only one entire class. Those ruby slippers are just not going to suddenly give him the determination and initiative to research and write a report all on his own, complete the written assignments to near perfection, and take the one remaining exam — all without losing more than 9 points. And yet he says to me, as I knew he would, “I want to do this. I can get a D in this class.”
So I said to him, “Dorothy, Paragraph City is not Kansas. You can’t get there from here.” But I said it only in my mind. With my mouth I said, as I had to, “ok.” When he has lost ten more points and it’s impossible for him to pass the course, I will let him know and he will disappear. It will happen, I know, before the semester “begins.”
My poor Dorothies. What Glinda fed you these nonsense beliefs about college?