Look at me, I met a deadline!

Those of you reading the papers may have noticed that there is quite the debate going on in the editorial section of the Winnipeg Free Press regarding whether or not marks should be deducted from students for handing in late assignments.

Former minister of education Peter Bjornson has said that focusing on deadlines takes away the real purpose of an assignment, which is to determine if a student truly understands the material being taught. In Bjornson’s view, focusing on deadlines puts unnecessary pressure on students and that they shouldn’t be penalized on their assignments for handing them in a few days late, if their work shows an appropriate understanding of the topics.

At first glance this policy has some good points, since many students struggle through high school. Our education system is designed for those who learn in a very specific way and does little to accommodate different learning styles. It makes sense to help students where they need it rather than penalizing those who are having trouble understanding concepts in classes and who need a little bit more time to complete assignments.

However, this is a policy for an ideal world that we don’t live in. We have all been through high school and know that there are many types of students. We have those keeners who always have their hands up in class and seem to catch on quickly. There are the average students who come half way between becoming teacher’s pet and flunking out. Then there are those kids who truly are struggling, who either genuinely have trouble with the subject, or they learn in a different way. Finally, there are the slackers, who are always on the verge of flunking and yet somehow manage to scrape by just enough to make it to the next grade. The slackers don’t care and don’t want to care, and are the ones that will take advantage of a system that doesn’t penalize students for late assignments.

In an ideal world, only those students truly needing extra help and time would take advantage of this system, but this isn’t an ideal world. You can bet that no high school teacher would ever get back half of the assignments they handed out if this proposed policy was put into place.

Another major reason why this proposed policy wouldn’t work is because it’s not practical, and it’s not realistic. High school attempts to prepare a student for the “real world.” It teaches them basic life skills like math, grammar and basic social skills. Another important life lesson is deadlines. In school you have a teacher that assigns projects and gives deadlines. In a job you have a boss who gives you projects with — big surprise — deadlines. Deadlines teach students time management — how to get a large amount of work done in a certain time period. How many of you out there have classes where lab reports or assignments have a due date, and if this due date isn’t met you lose marks? I know I do, and I also know that my lab TAs and my professors don’t care about what I did in high school. All they care about is me handing in my assignment so they can get the marking over with.

I think that this proposed policy is a diversion put in place by our politicians to distract us from the real problems our education system faces. They are using deducting marks from late assignments as a scapegoat for all the shortcomings of our education system. What we really need is a major revision of this system. We need a system that can cater to all types of learning with more funding towards acquiring adequate and up-to-date textbooks. Also, smaller teacher to student ratios, more hands on learning styles and more comfortable desks would help too.

People are already complaining that the newest generation of young adults is spoiled and selfish. Instead of coddling these kids even further, they need to start becoming responsible for their own actions and learning how to face the consequences of their decisions. For example, I chose to write this article, I chose to submit it to The Manitoban by the deadline and as a result you’re now reading it. I rest my case.

Deanna Gunson is a fourth-year science student majoring in biochemistry at the University of Manitoba.