Letter to the Editor: Participating Matters

Liddy Kang

Anna, thank you for expressing your opinion about graded class participation in your October 19 article, “Call on Me”. As an introvert who was also the shiest student in my kindergarten class, I can understand some of the problems that you are dealing with. Unfortunately for us, we live in a world that rewards, as you nicely put it, “gregarious students”, and increasingly does not appreciate introverts. Too many times certain students and professors have wrongly judged me as “stupid” because I was not outgoing, as if outgoing and intelligent are synonyms.

However, I must disagree with your opinion that graded class participation is “unjust” and “counterproductive”.

In my opinion, a higher percentage of my grade should be based on class participation. My class participation grade is the difference between passing and failing classes. As I consider myself a poor writer and even worse test-taker, I must rely on class participation to raise my grade from a D to a C+ or B-. I have taken a writing class and I have asked many professors, fellow students and support staff for tips for test taking, but I still cannot measure up with other students’ paper and test grades. The 10% class participation grade is not unjust; the lack of importance of class participation in a student’s grade, and therefore the lack of respect for different learning styles is unjust.

Also, I feel strongly that class participation is anything but counterproductive. No, I am not one of those “gregarious” students who talk in class to pretend to know the material. I am a person with strong opinions and I feel that attaching and opinion to the material, whether it is a positive or negative opinion, helps me to learn the material. What I do feel is counterproductive – and I agree with you here – is calling on students who would rather express their opinions on paper and forcing them to speak in front of the class. This does not benefit anyone in class, including the student, the professor and the classmates. As long as class participation is on a “raise your hand and get called on” basis, class participation is extremely productive.

It seems to me that you are worried about professors not thinking that you know your material. Some close-minded students may not know that you are as smart as you are, but at the end of the day, the professor is the one who is going to give you the grade. If s/he has read your papers and graded your tests, then s/he knows that you understand the material. In my experience, spending time at a professor’s office hours still counts as class participation, and when I go, I also have the benefit of having the professor’s undivided attention and having more time to think over things as I speak my mind.

Again, Anna, I would like to thank you for expressing your opinions. Dialoguing, whether it is through oral or written communication, benefits everyone – those who learn by reading, those who learn by writing, and those who learn by speaking.