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LASERS CURE ALL
February 9, 2005 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Frick'n Lasers! When an UT Austin student finds a stash of graded freshman physics homework, he decides to pitch in and add his own comments to those of the TA. Our children is might not be learning, but at least they're getting to play with lasers!
posted by robocop is bleeding (79 comments total)

 
my god.. I'm a recent grad and that's scary that I may have shared classes with people of that caliber. Seriously, I just clicked the link and read some of the pictures, and thought these were by 3rd graders. The handwriting and grammar. wow
posted by pez_LPhiE at 12:49 PM on February 9, 2005


Wierd. People write essays about lasers as part of a freshman physics class???

Not to get all elitist and stuff but my first week of freshman physics consisted of them tossing Wheeler's Spacetime Physics at us and asking us to solve problems using the basic relativistic equations.

Kind of amusing and yet unnecessary since the papers already make fun of themselves...
posted by vacapinta at 12:51 PM on February 9, 2005


Wow. I was chuckling a bit when I thought they were freshman high school papers, but college freshmen???

I am frightened and confused.
posted by LordSludge at 12:52 PM on February 9, 2005


Before I rant can someone help me with something: Are these real? How old would the students be? What sort of course would they be taking?

On the face of it, this looks ridiculous but I bet there's a simple explanation as to why these are SO bad.
posted by fingerbang at 12:52 PM on February 9, 2005


Someone put a SMILEY in a paper???!?!?!11??? God, it wasn't that long ago that I was a freshman, and I can't imagine ever doing that. Wow.
posted by deafmute at 12:57 PM on February 9, 2005


We are doomed.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2005


Cast no stones, pez_LPhiE.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:01 PM on February 9, 2005


My Quantitative Analysis professor in college gave me extra credit for being the only person in class who knew what "cc" stood for in a discussion about volume...
posted by Captaintripps at 1:02 PM on February 9, 2005


This can't be real. I mark undergraduate papers all the time, and while there might be one or two terrible papers, the majority are half decent. Something else is going on here.
posted by Quartermass at 1:08 PM on February 9, 2005


My Quantitative Analysis professor in college gave me extra credit for being the only person in class who knew what "cc" stood for in a discussion about volume...

*shakes head*
posted by raedyn at 1:08 PM on February 9, 2005


Please tell me these were from the Bumswipe College for the Severely Retarded.

'cause if that's representative of good USA post-secondary science program, y'all might as well give up and go back to living in caves.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2005


So this guy was walking down the hall in a college and he had enough time to swipe them, read them all and make comments, and the SCAN THEM ALL and run back and replace them? I smell a rat. Or did he actually take them all home for a night?

Regardless, if that's the best this dude can do in ripping apart these papers, he's not much smarter than the students. You get better snark on a Saturday Night Live skit. I think the only part I laughed at was the doofus who actually put a smiley in his paper.

In a related story, I used to work in a video production facility where one of our directors was a professor at Marist College. He would have his students fax their papers to the office, where I would retrieve them and read through them. Let me tell ya, a couple weeks of watching basic Sesame Street grammar lessons would have drastically improved these papers. Seriously pathetic and scary.
posted by spicynuts at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2005


I was really, really hoping that these weren't real. I fear they probably are. The syllabus for the course explains that homework assignments are to be dropped off and collected from a publically available mailbox, so it's entirely plausible that this joker could pick up the papers, write his comments, scan & return the papers without being caught.

What's really frightening is not just that these college freshman have the writing skills of a sixth grader. It's that anyone who turned in any paper at all got full credit - including this one and this one!
posted by tdismukes at 1:13 PM on February 9, 2005


Geez. I tutored "at risk" freshman in intro English courses for 3 years at a crappy university, and a rarely saw writing as bad as any of these. Freshman high school students, maybe.
posted by skyline at 1:13 PM on February 9, 2005


I dunno, this seems like they're papers written by grade school kids, in some kind of sumer camp "pretend you're going to college" thing. There's no way they're by actual college students.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:14 PM on February 9, 2005


302K. General Physics--Technical Course: Mechanics, Heat, and Sound.
Noncalculus technical course in physics. Only one of the following may be counted without prior approval of the department: Physics 301, 302K, 303K, 309K, 317K. Prerequisite: High school trigonometry or Mathematics 305G; and credit or registration for Physics 102M.
posted by smackfu at 1:19 PM on February 9, 2005


I went to UT Austin. This makes me sad.

Actually, now that I think back, it was like people were actually encouraged to write this badly. Introduction, body, conclusion. Say what you're going to say, say it, say what you just said. When you're given an assignment this stupid, I guess you put as much effort into writing it as the teacher did coming up with it.

These people are clearly illiterate, but then again UT Austin has over 55,000 students, many of which don't graduate, so I would say most of these go in the "don't" pile.

And yeah, those snarky corrections could've been funnier. But most 20-year-olds aren't that witty anyway.
posted by fungible at 1:20 PM on February 9, 2005


There's no way they're by actual college students.

That's a bold statement, man. I've definitely seen writing this poor from college students.
posted by spicynuts at 1:23 PM on February 9, 2005


Okay, I couldn't resist...

List and describe (about 1/2 page) the impact which the LASER had in your or your friends lives.

Why should the students care for their English if the professor doesn't? It's an awkward sentence and it's missing punctuation.

I think it's very sad that anyone could think of turning in any of those papers at a college level :(
posted by Aoede at 1:37 PM on February 9, 2005


Scary.
posted by carter at 1:42 PM on February 9, 2005


it's cute that so many students gave examples of how lasers impacted their lives from movies.
posted by nequalsone at 1:46 PM on February 9, 2005


I like the way he kept the photograph of himself on the LJ site to make it easy to ID him in the halls.
posted by iconomy at 1:50 PM on February 9, 2005


"So this guy was walking down the hall in a college and he had enough time to swipe them, read them all and make comments, and the SCAN THEM ALL and run back and replace them?"

I guess you have never noticed how many days/weeks some homework lies outside doors.
posted by mischief at 1:57 PM on February 9, 2005


This one had me thinking that the student's snarky comments were done simply for snark-reasons, until I got to the part where he talked about the warts and frogs. Then I began to seriously wonder who trained this paper-writing monkey to have such neat handwriting.
posted by chickygrrl at 2:04 PM on February 9, 2005


And not a single student mentioned laser light shows? I despair for the youth of America! But, seriously... Maybe we should start calling it the "University" of Texas, with sarcasm quotes? Oi.
posted by taz at 2:10 PM on February 9, 2005


OK, there's no way this is for real. College now isn't what it was for our parents, but 1/2 a page? Come on.
posted by sachinag at 2:10 PM on February 9, 2005


When the Masked Grader himself screws up the grammar, let alone as one comment states, confuses Star Wars with Star Trek, then the joke's on him.
posted by linux at 2:11 PM on February 9, 2005


Dude! Just like in Terminator! Awesome!
posted by Robot Johnny at 2:11 PM on February 9, 2005


Laser shows are mentioned, taz.
posted by chickygrrl at 2:13 PM on February 9, 2005


Hmm. Maybe privatizing Social Security isn't such a bad idea after all.
posted by danherwig at 2:13 PM on February 9, 2005


Oh, and I'm not too worried. The difference between writing in your freshman year versus your senior year is remarkably acute. I still cringe at my own freshman papers but find my senior papers quite acceptable.
posted by linux at 2:13 PM on February 9, 2005


During my freshman year in college I ran ads offering to type papers for money. (Can you say starving student?)

After the first few, I made people sign a paper that they understood that I would type their paper exactly as written, modulo a spellcheck. Because I could not believe what I was seeing.

Those papers made me wince. Every grammatical error in the book, plus some that had not been invented yet. Incomplete sentences. Sentences without discernible meaning. This sentence no verb.

It really hurt to hand over a nicely typed paper to a student who I knew was going to get a failing grade.

That was in '87. From watching the quality of writing on the net, I have no doubt that it's worse today.
posted by bitmage at 2:14 PM on February 9, 2005


302K - General Physics.

Ok, so is it the equivalent of Geology 100 - 'Rocks for Jocks' or is it an actual 300-level, third-year physics-major's course?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 2:14 PM on February 9, 2005


That's just fucking funny.
posted by ColdChef at 2:20 PM on February 9, 2005


I'd have to agree with the folks calling bullsh*t on this one. I've seen some pretty crappy papers from some pretty crappy students, and none have approached being this bad, even in the remedial comp class I TA'd as an undergrad. These guys had to write an essay to get into school, remember, and this isn't some uncompetetive state school, it's the University of Texas, fer petessake.

And on the off chance that they are real, screw this guy (not you, robocop) for being such an ass about it. I second Aoede's comment: Why should the kids be held to such high standards if the teacher isn't? But hey, this is the Web, right? It's fun to mock the people who aren't as smart or talented as we are!
posted by hifiparasol at 2:25 PM on February 9, 2005


Hook 'em Horns!

(This is Jenna Bush's alma mater.)

Mine too.

As soon as I get my degree mill PhD, I'll shred my UT Diploma.
posted by u2604ab at 2:26 PM on February 9, 2005


that's hilarious. apparently i should have enrolled in a different physics course at ut this semester. mine's slightly more difficult.
posted by blendor at 2:28 PM on February 9, 2005


I would tend to believe that some of them are real, and some others are just too poorly written to be authentic. He probably found a choice 6 or 7, and then fleshed it out with his own "horrible papers." (or at least I HOPE that's the case.)

In any case, I can believe most of these are real. I read an interesting article awhile back (in an accredited paper, just don't remember which) that discussed the emergence of emoticons and 'net speak in JHS and HS papers... Some of the HS students would be college freshman age by now...
posted by Debaser626 at 2:34 PM on February 9, 2005


I might have turned in something like this in freshman physics. It was as was said earlier a crappy assignment that totally deserved the 15-minutes before class treatment it got by the majority of the students. They should have made it legible though.
posted by SomeOneElse at 2:45 PM on February 9, 2005


There's no way they're by actual college students.

Meh; I've seen worse.

Two guesses why they're so awful:

(1) It's a gut, so nobody gives a damn, and it attracts dolts and people who don't want to work hard for whatever reason. The book is algebra-based, so it looks like a gut to me.

(2) It's not a real paper. It's something that the dolts and non-work-wanters in the gut mostly forgot to do until ten minutes beforehand and tossed off while sitting in the hallway.

[just a joke] If this is what UT students turn in, I'd hate to see the equivalent homework from Aggies...[/just a joke]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:46 PM on February 9, 2005


FWIW: This freshman physics class for n00bs probably hass 300 students in it. UT-Austin is one of the biggest campuses in the world in terms of student enrollment, and introductory freshman classes frequently have hundreds of students. If only 18 out of 300 students wrote such lame stuff , that's about par for the course.

What disturbs me more than the grammer, is the number of responses that cite lasers as critical to technologies that don't use lasers, like microwaves and IR headphones. Neither "grader" of these papers caught this error either, which is, after all, what this assignment should be primarily graded on.
posted by u2604ab at 2:56 PM on February 9, 2005


These guys had to write an essay to get into school, remember, and this isn't some uncompetetive state school, it's the University of Texas, fer petessake.

Not necessarily. If you're a Texas resident, and in the top quarter (if I remember correctly) of your graduating class, you are automatically accepted, no application necessary.

But, the point still stands, if you're in the top quarter of your graduating class, you write better than this.

But hey, this is the Web, right? It's fun to mock the people who aren't as smart or talented as we are!

Yes. Yes, it is.
posted by Bugbread at 3:00 PM on February 9, 2005


If this is real, I hope somebody finds the TA and beats the living shit out of him. Yeah, some of the shit is pretty hilarious, but he's just living up to all the TA asskisser stereotypes. Screw this guy.
posted by b_thinky at 3:02 PM on February 9, 2005


Couldn't they just make fun of him or something? You think it's really egregious enough to deserve physical assault?
posted by Bugbread at 3:08 PM on February 9, 2005


Slightly OT: Any of you UT types take physics from Professor Coker? What'd you think of him?
posted by u2604ab at 3:08 PM on February 9, 2005


I graduated from UT, I workfor UT. I don't want to believe. The 301/302 classes are intro-level classes, and some are specifically for "non-majors," i.e. us slow Liberal Arts people, but I thought LA majors could actually write. But since this is still early in the semester and an intro class, I can imagine an easy extra credit assignment like this being used.

And only the top ten percent get automatic acceptance, which you'd think would be the cream of the crop, but you'd be wrong.
posted by lychee at 3:09 PM on February 9, 2005


And only the top ten percent get automatic acceptance

Ah, sorry, thanks lychee. It's been a bit over a decade since high school for me, so my memory has gotten fuzzy.
posted by Bugbread at 3:12 PM on February 9, 2005


Application essays can easily be assisted/embellished/faked by a willing friend. Ergo, freshman year is pretty much a crapshoot -- a lot of people, especially first quarter, haven't hit the Wall of Incompetence yet, having coasted through lax high school education.

I remember reading through a stack of non-AP, non-honors 12-grade English papers in high school and wincing. And plenty of those folks were heading off to college the next year.

If these were supposed to be for an upper-class course, I'd blush, but this shit looks like par for the course. A lot of people can't fucking write. You don't notice so much because, in general, they don't try to.
posted by cortex at 3:14 PM on February 9, 2005


And, yeah, though the idea is fiendish and wonderful, the execution was meh at best. It's like he was too lazy to be incisive for most of them, so he settled for just being an asshole.
posted by cortex at 3:16 PM on February 9, 2005


To recap what's said above, this is credible for these reasons:

A) US college freshmen are notoriously bad writers these days, even at elite schools.

B) This is a variety of "rocks for jocks" course, not a real introductory physics course.

C) There are the worst papers selected from a huge pool—probably 300 or more—and given this, even were A and B not the case, you'd still see some really bad writing.

D) UT Austin is one of the best state universities in the US, and very competitive for out-of-state applicants and of course for grad school. But many Texan applicants are automatically accepted and so there's a portion of the student body that is as dismally incompetent as you'll find at any state school.

My alma mater is highly competitive liberal arts college that is a reading, discussion, and writing school which required several extensive essays as part of the application process. Nevertheless, I was amazed and dismayed to find that a significant number of my fellow freshmen were very poor writers. I wasn't bothered by the spelling and grammatical errors as much as I was by the incoherence.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:17 PM on February 9, 2005


Point taken, cortex, but if dude is calling the class "Physics for Poets," shouldn't the responses be a bit more, y'know, poetic?

If it's a non-major class for lib arts folks fulfilling a requirement, you'd think there'd be a few kids in there who had a wee bit more skill with the words and such.

(Sorry, but you're talking to a guy who was an English major at a science school, who has little patience for science-tech types who think they're the bomb diggity because they know their way around a pipette.)

At this point, though, I don't care whether it's real or not. Either way, the dude's a jackass.
posted by hifiparasol at 3:27 PM on February 9, 2005


"There are the worst papers selected from a huge pool"

Yet they still received 3/3.
posted by mischief at 3:34 PM on February 9, 2005


Wow. I am impressed by this person's grasp of my generation's main contribution to society : snarkily commenting on things.
posted by afroblanca at 3:46 PM on February 9, 2005


EB: St. John's College?
posted by Bugbread at 3:49 PM on February 9, 2005


Yes.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2005


What really gets to me is how truly weak this homework assignment is. Write half a page about lasers? That's something any bright 8th grader could do. Real physics assignments have equations.

I understand these people aren't physics majors, but more should be required to pass than being able to not drool on themselves. I'm glad I took the real, calc-based physics.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:56 PM on February 9, 2005


I think you pretty much nailed it, EB. After being in AP english through high school, and honors world lit here, I had forgotten what some of my classmates are capable of. It saddens me...*sigh*

PurplePorpoise, if you're still wondering, they number the classes here at UT with the first number being the number of hours, and the next two indicating the individual course and level (with upper level staring in the twenties, I believe). So some course, say PHY 223, would be a two credit-hour upper level course, while PHY 302 would be a low level 3 credt-hour course. That took way too long to explain, and you will now have to shoot me for deliberately wasting your time.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 3:59 PM on February 9, 2005


[Applause]

Having done my physics undergrad education at Texas (the rigor of which I can wholeheartedly defend), maybe I can offer some insight. Let's just say that that particular course isn't meant to be the most challenging in the world. Also, that particular professor isn't known for... well... caring much at all any more.
posted by fatllama at 4:04 PM on February 9, 2005


As a graduate of a public school on a similar tier to UT Austin (Michigan) I was appalled by this. Then I remembered my freshman "Introduction to Engineering" course. While one of my groupmates was a competent writer, the remaining two were very close to illiterate. My least favorite memory of college (well, after the requisite few bad hangovers) was an evening in which we made several failed attempts to coax them into writing a coherent sentence for a technical report. In order to get them out of our hair, my competent ally told them to go downstairs to write a thank you note for a professor who had answered some questions for us. A relatively productive hour passed before they returned, but what they came back with destroyed my faith in the cream of Michigan's public school system. While it was definitely trying to thank someone for something, it was unrecognizable as a product of the English language. I ended up rewriting it, and also I think that was the day I took up drinking. Moral? Public universities have a long tail in their students' skill distributions. All you can do is hope that the process of college will force those far behind to catch up and try not to trip over them as they do it.

This also seems to be a great place to bring up my favorite piece of Laser Lit.
posted by monocyte at 4:10 PM on February 9, 2005


Mitrovarr: There's something to be said for non-math physics as well, though (though obviously these papers are not saying it). I took an excellent class on "The Philosophy of Space and Time" (from a Physics standpoint) taught by the Philosophy department. No numbers involved, but the contents of the class were basically tons about relativity, superstrings, Poincarean heated discs, etc. etc. It was an elective class, and therefore there were virtually no "rocks for jocks" type kids in class (it counted as a Philosophy class, not a Physics class, so it didn't count toward virtually any graduation prerequisites).

Interestingly, although there was no math, the class was about half Philosophy majors and half folks like me: interested in science, but not majoring in science. All the philosophy students did horribly, as they could not get their heads around the idea that in physics there is a correct answer, and "I disagree" is not a valid counterargument.

In the end, it's a shame that I took it my senior year. If I had taken it my frosh year, I would have probably gone back, brushed up on my calculus, and given a proper Physics class another go.
posted by Bugbread at 4:11 PM on February 9, 2005


And to think my AP English teacher tells me *I* can't write.

I think my favorites were the references to James Bond and Luke Skywalker.

I wonder how long it'll be before this guy gets beat up...
posted by Amanda B at 4:52 PM on February 9, 2005


I grade SAT essays by high school juniors and seniors - not just kids from public schools, but expensive private school students as well. SAT essay readers grade on a scale from 1-6, and the vast majority of essays are 2s and 3s. Quite a few 4s; not so many 5s or 6s.

But some of the low-scoring essays are hysterically funny and very educational. Today I learned that "The mind does what the body thinks."
posted by Uccellina at 5:08 PM on February 9, 2005


Well, even in cases where one is not working directly with numbers, such as in relativity, string theory, and temporal dynamics, there are usually still equations (and the real work is done with math I can't even begin to wrap my brain around.) But I understand what you mean.

There's no place for mathless physics at the introductory level, though. One of the greatest things about college physics is that it is usually the first place people have math skills and equipment sufficient to actually see the universe behave according to mathematical laws and make accurate numerical predictions. It really demonstrates the relevance of the field.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:21 PM on February 9, 2005


302K. General Physics--Technical Course: Mechanics, Heat, and Sound. Noncalculus technical course in physics.

So basically this class is for students who like to watch Discovery Channel? I hope these kids aren't English majors.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:56 PM on February 9, 2005


Mitrovarr, this assignment was probably assigned within the first week of this class (look at the dates, and that it's called "Assignment 0" by some).

MiltonRandKalman, Noncalculus probably means algebra. You can do a decent of physics with just algebra.
posted by zsazsa at 5:59 PM on February 9, 2005


I'm a UT graduate so a few things you should note:

I know I turned in bullshit science essay assignments (mainly in the form of required "pre-lab" discussion questions in lab classes) that I put just as much effort into as these guys in the 10 minutes before class. The result would have been prettier, but still way below my capabilities, as I expect this was for them.

I never would have done that for any of my liberal arts classes, and I was a science major.

Other items:

302K - General Physics.

Ok, so is it the equivalent of Geology 100 - 'Rocks for Jocks' or is it an actual 300-level, third-year physics-major's course?


To add to PurplePorpoises's discussion, at UT, the first number tells you how many hours of credit the course gives you, the next two tell you the level. 00-19 = lower-division (freshman/sophomore), 20-79 = upper-division (junior/senior), 80-90 = graduate. Within these ranges the numbers are not guaranteed to have meaning. Letters after the numbers are not guaranteed to have meaning unless they are ABXYZ, but K is frequently used as the first part of a sequence with L, as in this case.

More than you ever wanted to know about this esoteric way of designating classes, I'm sure.

If you're a Texas resident, and in the top quarter (if I remember correctly) of your graduating class, you are automatically accepted, no application necessary.

Not true, it's the top 10% and you DO have to fill out an application (with essays, etc). But if your application is complete, you get in.

I hope these kids aren't English majors.

I would be willing to bet money that a plurality of these kids are "undeclared Liberal Arts" which is the most popular major at the university. You don't have to declare until you're upper-division.
posted by grouse at 6:15 PM on February 9, 2005


So after 66 replies, I can weigh in on my own post, right?

The part that struck me the most that for this homework that was one of the first of the semester (when students care and don't slack as much as they could by say, March) and could obviously be completed in ten minutes, that some folks could not even get the 3/3.

I remember my freshman year at BU and shake my head at my many, many their/they're, its/it's fubars. I was an English major, so the shame is ever so much, uh, shameful.

EB, what year were you at St.Johns? Being an Annapolis-area kid, I wanted to go there, but my Dad refused. So I ended up at BU for their Core program that sounded a lot like St.J's Great Books.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:42 PM on February 9, 2005


Prof. Coker also teaches a class on pseudoscience.
posted by Wet Spot at 7:08 PM on February 9, 2005


I don't know why people think these couldn't be real. I was a TA for a freshman class in the Linguistics Department of A Major University Which Shall Remain Nameless. People expect scientists not to be able to write, but out of approximately 100 papers in this liberal arts subject, I read 1 -- ONE -- well-written, stylistically sound, grammatically correct, and properly punctuated paper. I creamed my blue panties when I read that one paper; I realized that I was not the only grammar snob and pedant left in the world. I said as much in my comments on the paper as well.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:13 PM on February 9, 2005


robocop: early nineties. But I was at the Santa Fe campus, although my best friend spent a semester at the Annapolis campus and then transferred back.

Personally, I think a big part of the problem is the way that high school students are taught and expected to write. They're taught extremely schematic writing and often expected to write just a few important papers. So they do the little writing-by-numbers thing and get an adult to help them out or polish it up, if necessary.

If you ask them to write even a short, casual expressive half-page, they're lost and produce stuff that looks like middle-school level writing.

You only become a better writer by writing—a lot—not being taught how to write. Kids should just be forced to write and write and then write some more.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:41 PM on February 9, 2005


I just ran these papers past my grad student wife. She swears that she has seen many worse papers that she had to grade as a teaching assistant. Scary.

On preview - Good point, Ethereal Bligh.
posted by tdismukes at 7:50 PM on February 9, 2005


UT Austin is one of the best state universities in the US...
...As a graduate of a public school on a similar tier to UT Austin (Michigan)


UT-Austin is a fine school. But one of the best state universities in the country? No. UT is emphatically not Berkeley or Michigan or Virginia or Chapel Hill. Its equivalents are more Michigan State or Penn State or Ohio State which are, again, very good schools. Just not in that very small top tier of 2--4 state schools, depending on who's counting what but that always have Berkeley waaaay the hell out in front.

You only become a better writer by writing—a lot—not being taught how to write. Kids should just be forced to write and write and then write some more.

Which isn't to say that doesn't happen in high school, sometimes. I wrote more in my (AP) English class in high school than I did in most of my classes at Virginia, and mostly in frequent small chunks.

Metafilter: frequent small chunks. Mmmm... chunks.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:21 PM on February 9, 2005


I am surprised UT is labeling classes that should be 100 or even 200 level with a 300 course number. Makes it seem like a real physics class; which as demonstrated it is not.

Otherwise, typical college writing. Theorym, parrallel, sentences are that not order in, and other stuff hallmarks writing for many grade "A" scientists.
posted by buzzman at 8:28 PM on February 9, 2005


Its equivalents are more Michigan State or Penn State or Ohio State which are, again, very good schools.

I think you'll find if you look at various college rankings that you're wrong. UT may well rank below Michigan and UNC-Chapel Hill, but it would be just below and a long stretch above Michigan State and the like.

I have no horse in this race, I didn't attend UT. But your assertion contradicts everything I've seen in my adult lifetime.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:40 PM on February 9, 2005


Prof. Coker also teaches a class on pseudoscience.

Words to the wise: don't arrive late, and don't sneeze in his class. [via the venerable SPS lore from the good old days; search for "sneeze" in your browser and be amused with the discussion that follows.]
posted by fatllama at 8:41 PM on February 9, 2005


I went to grad school at UT, and would like to share these comments. 1) Prof. Bohm is well-known to be one of the worst teachers at any level. His classes manage to be abstruse and useless, yet easily passed by anyone willing to turn the crank on the BS machine. He is German by birth and so should get a pass for the bad grammar in his assignment question. 2) Bohm may be a terrible teacher -- but he is ten times worse as a thesis adviser. He is abusive, capricious, and will abuse his power over students. (No, he wasn't my adviser, but I've heard stories directly). 3) Someone above thought that this class (PHY302k) is a "300 level" class-- it isn't. For some reason UT puts the number of credits in the first digit and the level as the second digit. "302k" means this is a 3-credit class, 02 means the "physics for poets" sequence, "k" indicates the particular course in that sequence. 4) UT has something like 50,000 students, and a fairly liberal acceptance policy (as mentioned above, the top 10% of all graduating HS seniors are automatically accepted). Students are accepted first and given a chance to succeed or fail on their own. You're seeing the bottom of a very large barrel here. 5) I definitely think these papers are real, and I wish the quality of grammar, rhetoric and content reflected better on UT. However, I think a fair portion of the blame should be placed at the feet of the instructor, who has clearly asked for and accepted a thought- and effort-free assignment.
posted by mrflip at 9:42 PM on February 9, 2005


And remember, these are the people who didn't pick up the assignment after it being available for TWO WEEKS. So you are dealing with people who don't care or dropped the class after finding the level of discussion too high for them.

(Now some pedant is going to chew me out for starting a sentence with the word "and".)
posted by calwatch at 10:48 PM on February 9, 2005


"There are the worst papers selected from a huge pool"

Yet they still received 3/3.


That, my friend, is what we call grade inflation. Presumably as rife at UT as it is everywhere else. You have to work very hard to screw up badly enough to even get a 2/3, as these papers indicate.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 6:22 AM on February 10, 2005


That SPS webpage was right on regarding Coker. That dude's class vanished after the first test; Something like 75% dropped Electricity and Magnetism for Physics majors.

I'd say Coker gave good lectures in that they were entertaining as long as he wasn't abusing me. I'd also say that he left me so demoralized about my understanding of Electricity and Magnetism that, even thought I got a "B," that shit still scares me. And I went on to get a PhD in Biophysics.
posted by u2604ab at 10:19 PM on February 10, 2005


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