There is a story making the rounds about a group of students at NYU who started a petition because a quarter of them failed his organic chemistry class. The teacher was fired and the students given a free pass. I have a unique perspective on this one, having been both a medical professional and a chemistry teacher.
I am of two minds with this one. I could see the teacher’s point of view here. Organic chemistry is a difficult course. When I took “OrgO” as it is called, I had already been accepted into my grad school program, and all I had to do was get a “C” in the course, which I did. I probably could have gotten a B, but had other things on my mind and slacked off for the last couple of weeks. It remains to this day the only undergraduate course where I received a C. Skill in organic chemistry is not really required to be a doctor, instead it is one of those classes referred to as a “weed out” class, designed to weed out students who want to make a lot of money as a doctor or some other high paying profession, but who don’t have the academic skills or the work ethic needed to complete the rigorous program. There are a few of those courses scattered throughout the undergraduate pre-requisite courses, each more difficult than the last. I understand the academic rigor, and I understand the professor taking pride in teaching his subject. I can definitely see his side of the argument.
On the other side, I can agree with the students. Anyone who has taken any sort of course knows that any teacher can write a test that most students can’t pass. A great example of that is the TV game show “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?” I will say that there are some teachers who use tests as an opportunity to show off just how much smarter they are than their students. Tests are supposed to evaluate the students AND the teacher to see if the course objectives are being met. If most of the students fail the test, the teacher needs to ask where the problem lies: the students, the course delivery, or the test itself. In this case, we don’t know which of these was the case.
Since at least a quarter of them failed, we can surmise that most didn’t fail. This is corroborated by the fact that this particular professor had been teaching for years, and his rating at Rate My Professor for his time at Princeton was pretty good for what he was teaching (most professors teaching difficult material get subpar ratings). Even for his time at NYU, he got pretty good ratings. It’s important to note that the last 14 ratings he received at the time I wrote this were written after the news article came out, and were filled with comments like: “I am so glad NYU decided to fire his a$$. He made all his classes unnecessary harder than they needed to be. Hopefully we get some new profs who have easy chem classes and lower standards.”
Overall, I lean towards thinking that the students were a bunch of snowflakes who expect to receive an A as if it were some sort of participation trophy, then demand to be passed along so they can graduate from medical school and become doctors. I ran into the same problem when I was teaching a difficult course, and my students likewise attempted to get me fired.
But that is a story for a different day.
In this instance, there just isn’t enough data to know which is correct, but I am willing to bet it was the professor. In any case, it doesn’t matter because he is out of a job, and those 82 students are going to be your doctor when you reach the nursing home.