YOUNG: Remember those gold stars?

A view of the crowds of Destination Iowa State outside of Hilton Coliseum on Friday evening. Photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily


A view of the crowds of Destination Iowa State outside of Hilton Coliseum on Friday evening. Photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Julie Young

So, we’ve hit that time in the semester; the beautiful weather is in, the excitement of new classes is out, the next break is months way — how I love mid-September.

Unfortunately for most Iowa State students, September into October provides one of the most difficult times to attend class. As classes leave the honeymoon phase, topics that held so much potential have become drab and mundane. Although arctic temperatures to come may drive us indoors, the current utopia screams for freedom and frolicking in the grass. Okay, maybe not frolicking, but at least not sitting in a windowless room in Ross Hall.

The question isn’t why students aren’t motivated to attend classes, however— the question is what professors intend to do about this lack of motivation.

The problem of attendance isn’t anything new. In kindergarten, my Sunday school teacher had a special chart where a student could place a star for attendance each week. Eager to fill my chart, this pious five-year old progressed from green to silver to gold, proving my enthusiasm and dedication.

As a college senior I haven’t seen this gold star concept disappear — rather, it has warped into something disappointingly less shiny or rewarding: The attendance point.

That’s right, boys and girls, if you show up for class every day, we’ll give you a grand total of 50 attendance points. If not, well, I’m afraid we’ll have to drop your grade point average.

To be fair, I believe that class attendance is important — certainly professors have a wealth of knowledge which many work to impart to students. With the thousands of dollars put towards education, it would seem a waste not to take advantage of the instruction and information provided.

However, as the benefactors of our own education, students should be given the choice whether or not they would like to attend lectures without putting their academic status on the line.

I often find myself asking how physical attendance reflects the knowledge I have gained in a specific course; after all, I could very easily spend the entire lecture Facebooking or texting on my cell phone.

Further, if the lecture provides new, intellectually-stimulating material, won’t students who chose not to attend naturally have lower test scores, having missed the lecture?

Why, then, have attendance points become such a staple in the collegiate experience?

Perhaps, it’s because lazy students need a little something to drag themselves to class.

Or maybe teaching assistants are sick of uneven math while calculating grades: If I had two hundred possible points, percentages would be so much faster than out of the current one hundred and seventy…

Or just possibly, professors have realized their lectures, if not for mandatory attendance policies, would be empty. Amazingly, listening to a research wizard read through PowerPoint slides in broken English doesn’t really leave students craving more class.

Conversely, grade grubbing students also contribute to attendance points by whining about grades not reflecting effort. But I tried so hard; I attended every class and still didn’t pass! Sorry my self-esteem enhanced friend, “trying” isn’t the same thing as “achieving.” If you haven’t learned the material, you should not pass.

Fortunately for my roommates in design, people in this college have learned that if they cannot create quality work, they won’t make it into the competitive program. In-class critiques lead to better designs, making class attendance a worthwhile experience, no points required.

I suppose, even the most pertinent of classes are not appealing on a mid-September day. However, it seems a valuable learning experience is far more likely to entice me indoors than a collegiate version of the classic gold star.