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A Baylor degree is worth what we demand for it

Nov. 17, 1998

With the exception of a few students out to get their 'M-R-S' degrees, most students at Baylor share the same ultimate goal: to earn a degree from Baylor University. A degree, however, is nothing more than a symbol. It is worthless except that it represents some level of achievement and understanding the student should have attained.

So what does a Baylor degree stand for?

A degree from Baylor indicates that you can read and write, but you may not be able to distinguish between 'their' and 'they're.'

A degree from Baylor means you can turn in an assignment, but you may be completely incapable of following the assignment instructions printed in clear English in your syllabus.

A degree from Baylor proves you are prompt enough to avoid failing out of your classes on account of attendance, but it is quite possible you have never turned in a single assignment on time.

Basically, a degree from Baylor symbolizes the academic standards here: those who choose to excel and produce quality work have the opportunity to do so. Those who don't care and don't try can slide through with C's.

As a senior, I have been at Baylor long enough to witness numerous presentations, read various papers and edit countless articles. Many have left me wondering how some students ever passed Baylor's basic freshman-level classes.

Some might argue that I am being elitist or unrealistic: we can not expect everyone to be a brilliant mathematician, an inspired writer or an earth-shaking public speaker. Nevertheless, we must demand some basic levels of performance and understanding from university students. Otherwise, why confer degrees at all? We would all learn for the sake of learning, and potential employers would evaluate us according to our aptitude. Of course, in such a system, those who slide by would not attend at all because their aim is not to learn, but rather to gain a degree that attests to and takes the place of learning.

Others may argue that some of these skills are not necessary to their respective fields of employment. Why should an accountant need to write well, or a journalist know the intricacies of percentages?

Aside from the intrinsic benefits of increased knowledge, understanding and thinking skills, real learning improves communication, efficiency and credibility--not to mention the chances of getting and keeping a job in the real world.

Imagine a businessman who gives a presentation for a crucial business deal and hands his client something that reads, 'Buy our products. There the best.'

And yet there are Baylor upperclassmen who hand in similar substandard work and pass. If Baylor ever hopes to rank among the prestigious, respected schools, we must raise our basic standards. We must not let low quality and low achievement slip through each successive level of Baylor to the point where mediocrity becomes a habit and excellence a thing for the Will Huntings of the world.

Does this mean more F's and more fifth-(sixth, seventh)-year seniors? Not if professors commit the time to grade carefully, provide feedback and offer students chances to prove they have learned the material. For example, in one of my courses the entire class performed poorly on a project; rather than let us believe our work was of acceptable quality, our professor graded us realistically, let us know what we had done wrong and gave us a chance to demonstrate our learning in a new, graded bonus project. While our grade point averages escaped unscathed (if we were willing to do the additional work), our professor succeeded in maintaining the high standards that should characterize an institute of higher learning.

A degree from Baylor University is worth only what we demand for it; it can be worthless as a scrap of paper or the most valuable attainment of our lives. Let us then raise our standards and make a Baylor degree worth every cent we pay--and infinitely more.

(Patricia Demchak is a senior journalism major from Sedalia, Colo.)

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