Mandatory attendance policies make little sense

We’re all adults now.

We hear it on the first day of every class, every semester. By the time you’re a senior it can get pretty grating.

Our instructors love to remind us that we’re responsible for staying on top of our schoolwork, and that they won’t babysit us. They tell us that we need to prioritize and make our own decisions about our education.

Then they turn around and say, hey, if you aren’t responsible enough to decide on your own to show up for class, you’re going to lose a letter grade.

In a setting where students are constantly told that they need to make their own decisions, mandatory attendance policies seem a little contradictory.

Attendance policies for college students are completely unnecessary.

That’s not to say students shouldn’t be going to every class (studies have proven that good attendance leads to good grades).

But we are adults, and we need to be able to make that decision ourselves.

That aside, there are a few reasons attendance policies really aren’t necessary in a college setting.

First of all, if you aren’t in class, you aren’t learning the material you need to know. Students who don’t show up to class are probably going to fail the course whether or not you factor in attendance.

On the other hand, otherwise good students who miss two or three classes are punished with a grade deduction. This system is flawed.

Second, when you force students who don’t want to be in class to show up, you inadvertently punish the students who actually want to learn.

Students who don’t want to be in class will spend the entire class period texting, sleeping, tapping on their desks or glancing at the clock every minute and a half, which distracts their classmates. The end result is that good students are unable to focus on the lesson, and the students who are forced into the classroom don’t pay attention anyway.

Third, mandatory attendance policies encourage students to come to class even if they’re not feeling well.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not going to visit the doctor every time I get the sniffles. That means I don’t always have a doctor’s note, which means that if I miss class because my immune system has declared total war on my body, my grade will suffer.

This presents a sort of catch-22. If an ill student goes to class, they won’t be able to pay attention anyway. Plus, they pose a health risk to other students. But if they stay home, their grades suffer.

Finally, good attendance really isn’t a measure of how much knowledge a student has gained from a course. Instructors ought to be judging students based on their performance in the course and knowledge of the material, not their ability to sit still for 50 minutes. Again, if a student never goes to class, they won’t perform well anyway.

It really all boils down to a simple argument. Yes, we as students should be going to every class we can. But it’s our prerogative to make that decision.

And to the instructors, I’d just like to say this: if you want to encourage us to act like adults, please, stop treating us like children.

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