he forgot there was a midterm today. i watched him break his own finger to
get out of it. (Texts From Last Night)
Why would anyone do that?
Whatever course he was taking, it wasn’t worth breaking his finger over. I don’t mean his finger is valuable, I mean that he wouldn’t have done this over an important class.
Students operate with a huge gap between how important they think the class/material is, and how important they think the grade is. That weird thinking is explained by GPA– all grades get equal weight, so it really matters that they do well even in courses they do not think are valuable.
And students will argue most vociferously for a higher grade in those courses
that they don’t value– just as they don’t see particular value in the course,
the grade itself is also lacking in integrity or objective meaning. It can, and
should, be changed as needed.
So breaking the finger comes out of a certain kind of desperation. He’s only breaking it to get out of something that’s not worth the effort. It’s a paradoxical logic: the course is stupid, I don’t care about the material, but it’s too stupid not to get an A in. I just need a little more time to study.
But it won’t really help. No amount of delaying will get him a substantially
better grade. It’s a hail mary pass, and you only throw hail mary passes when you’re losing.
But, importantly, the maneuver is reliable, even if you get caught. “If this kid broke his finger to get out of an exam, there’s got to be something wrong with him. He probably needs a little more time to prepare for the test.”
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