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Taking attendance in classes is a waste of time

Forcing students to attend classes does nothing but dull an otherwise vibrant learning environment

· Mar 8, 2017 Tweet

Courtesy of Bryce Richter, University Communications

I am a student who likes to go to class. Nearly every semester of my college career, I have attended all but a few lectures and discussion sections for most of my classes. While I admit to skipping some of the more boring lectures I’ve been in, for the most part I try to go and learn to earn good grades.

That’s my personal preference. But I can easily see how many students on campus don’t want to go to class or aren’t interested in sitting through a power lecture on a beautiful 70 degree day. If they don’t want to be there, then they shouldn’t have to be there. Taking attendance in college classes is a waste of time and energy.

Unlike elementary, middle and high school, by the time we come to college, almost every student is older than 18 and therefore an adult. They can make their own decisions in life for better or worse. So why are professors trying to force students into attending class if they don’t want to?

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If a student is paying tuition and makes a decision not to attend class, that’s their problem. If a parent or scholarship is paying for tuition, then the consequences of a student not deciding to attend class can come from the student’s benefactor, not a random professor who likely doesn’t even know the student’s name. If the student wants to skip class, let them skip class.

Logically speaking, there are only a couple of results that could come from not attending class. Most likely, the student’s grade will suffer because they choose not to learn the material they needed to know for class. That’s a form of punishment in itself. By lowering a student’s grade even further just because they don’t show up for class is almost like a double punishment. If someone wants to skip class, fine. Then it’s up to them to find a way to be prepared for the test.

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In the unlikely event a student doesn’t come to class but still understands the material, why should they be punished for knowing the material without lecture being a necessity?

The only real explanation I can come up with why so many University of Wisconsin classes have attendance sheets in lecture is because professors think they’re creating a better learning environment if they have more students in class. I kind of get that argument, but again, I think there’s a real possibility quantity does not create a quality learning environment.

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Is it really a better learning environment if one-third of the students there don’t want to be there? If they spend the whole class scrolling through Facebook or daydreaming about their weekend, is the learning environment really improving? It’s more likely that forcing students to attend class actually makes the learning environment less impactful, as students who don’t want to be there might serve as a distraction to those who do.

Like I said, I personally like to attend class. I care about my grades and like to learn. But I totally get people who are just here to get by and get out. Let them do their thing. They’ll either face ramifications because of their decision not to attend or succeed in spite of it. Forcing them to be there with the threat of further harming their grade does nothing but create an unenthusiastic and dull learning environment in the process.

Connor Touhey ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science, history and journalism.