WHAT? YOU mean it's happened already?
This wasn't supposed to happen for some years, although we shouldn't be surprised that it did. We argumentative Americans have been locked for years in a discussion of academic criteria, standardized testing and just how do we measure what we're doing educationally.
Discussions on affirmative action in higher education and how SAT scores are biased against minorities are only part of the brouhaha, with some affirmative action proponents calling for colleges and universities to de-emphasize, if not abolish altogether, standardized test scores as criteria for admission.
We conservatives have sat back and smiled through it all, waiting for the day the clarion call of liberals for an across-the-board reduction in academic standards would backfire and shoot them in the feet. One day, some conservatives warned, a college or university will admit someone not cut out for college-level work. When the student inevitably flunks out, he or she will sue that same college or university, not the members of the liberal horde whose braying for reduced admissions standards got the student in the mess.
It was destined to happen, we figured. But in 2003? And at Coppin State College?
Coppin is one of those schools that cater to the masses of American students who don't get into "highly selective" colleges and universities. The school is good, and it's easy on the budget. Over the years, its faculty and administration have done their job superbly.
So what's this we read in The Sun about 11 Coppin students -- enrolled in the college's graduate criminal justice program -- suing after they flunked the comprehensive exam required for graduation? Twice?
There's more to the story. According to Sun reporter Frank Roylance, word went around Coppin's campus that eight of the flunkees would receive degrees today. Roylance cited a Chronicle of Higher Education Web site as the source for the allegation.
Stanley F. Battle, Coppin's new president, adamantly denied that any of those flunked will receive a degree and said the Web site story is false.
Boy, that's a relief.
But no one has denied that 14 students filed a lawsuit last month that alleged, according to Roylance, "that the [criminal justice] department failed to adequately prepare them for their final exams and research papers, and miscommunicated the requirements of the program."
Excuse me? Some 20 students are in the program. One, 34-year-old Joycelyn Evans of Catonsville, works full time and opted to write a research thesis for the course. Others could choose the comprehensive exam and a shorter research paper. Of the 14 who sought to graduate this semester, eight flunked the exams. Four had seminar papers accepted by the college -- allowing them to graduate, even though those papers were deemed unacceptable by the department head. Two others, including Evans, completed all the work and will graduate.
And assuming the fault did lie with Coppin's faculty, shouldn't those failing students have made danged sure those preparation and communication issues were fully addressed before they took the exam a second time? Do they have any idea how many college students, past and present, would love to have a second crack at an exam they'd flunked?
Conservatives are usually accused of "blaming the victims" when we bring these questions up. Indeed, in a society that has elevated victimhood to near deity status, we should not be surprised that 11 people would twice flunk a college exam, claim they've been terribly aggrieved and then file a lawsuit.
But the real victims may be those Coppin professors, who have to teach many students who may have come from a Baltimore school system where, until recently, social promotion was all the rage.
Thus when Roylance quotes Coppin criminal justice professor Richard Monk saying he read research papers in 2001 and found them to be "certified gibberish," we should immediately sympathize with him and every other Coppin teacher. Roylance's story quotes Monk saying that some research papers from the current crop of students "were clearly plagiarized, verbatim, from a textbook."
Teachers go over that plagiarism thing and nip it in the bud around about fifth grade. At least they did in my day. Re-phrasing things in your own words and writing in clear English that wasn't gibberish were darn near articles of faith that teachers preached to students.
Today's teachers have bemoaned a system in which they're forbidden to teach grammar and parts of speech. No doubt that warnings about plagiarism and exhortations to write good prose have gone the way of the buffalo as well.