The “Easy A” philosophy and other Socratic principles (or how to choose classes at GW)

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The time to register for classes began last month. The sacred “add/drop” weeks have followed. For the past few weeks all GW students have had to ask themselves:  “what classes do I choose?”

I don’t want to brag but it is not the first time I register for classes at GW. I already did it last semester and I can claim to be almost an expert on how students make those choices. Let me present you my – some would say very sophisticated – sociological analysis on that subject.

The main argument at the core of my homemade theory is that the student specimen chooses his/her classes negatively, that is to say, by elimination. Yet, there are several types of specimens and, as a result, different ways of choosing classes.

1) The “Easy A” choice  (AKA the “I am buying my degree” choice): The principle is very simple. Some students will try to get As (or Bs) the easiest way possible and will thus choose the easiest classes the University offers. Through this decision process, the student specimen (AKA the GW student) will be helped by other “Easy A classes” hunters or by websites such as ratemyprofessor.com. Someone fitting in that category might for example take the class rated 5/5 on easiness with the comment:” if you go to class Easy A”. Considering the price of education, some evil minds might say it is equivalent to buying a degree without working. But I am not this kind of person… (or maybe I am).

2) The “I-am-taking-your-class-because-nobody-can-be-good-at-it-except-for-me” choice: I have to say I hadn’t run into this specimen before last week. Concretely, when asked why he/she is taking this class, the student specimen will answer: “I think absolutely nobody does a good job at this (this includes the teacher) so I want to learn it myself”. When you get rid of the polite phrasing it means: everybody suck at this, including you; that is why I am trying to raise the level of the field. This approach rarely guarantees you to be liked in the class.

3) The “I need 12-credits and I don’t want to socialize” choice: Some students just don’t know what they are interested in but they know one thing: they already have friends and they are not here to speak to anybody. This specimen is particularly interesting if you are in a sociology class.

4) The “I need an internship” choice: Very pragmatical, this choice hinges on the following assumption: some teachers are brilliant professionals and they will probably help you find you an internship if you are very nice (or/and if you bring them cookies). This category is very specific to GW, or at least to the United States, and you have to be very strong not to be tempted to take advantage of it. Being very weak myself, I did.

5) The “I want to learn” choice: Very noble intellectually, this choice is motivated by a will to progress and to learn something out of a semester of study. Even though this choice seems to be the best from an academic point of view (once again, considering the price of education, you expect the student to at least want to learn something), it is often in contradiction with another variable: you actually don’t want to spend your nights working. As a result, the “Easy A” choice often wins this battle.

6) The “Everything was closed” choice (very popular among exchange students): Sometimes the choice is not a choice. If you register last and you don’t go often on GWeb to check if some classes opened, you will have to choose classes by default (instead of looking for the best classes, you’ll look for the least worse). That is how you can end up studying: “Famous harmonica players in the Nineteenth Century”, “Psychology analysis of princesses in the Middle East” or “Special topic in Engineering: Rubik’s cube”.

7) The “I need the class to graduate” choice: This case is particularly interesting to study from a psychological point of view, especially if the specimen is a senior (like my roommate, but this is completely fictional and absolutely not inspired by her registration for an economy class). To make it simple, the student specimen has to take a specific class to graduate and is consequently particularly eager to take this class. He or she (or it) will do everything to get into the class (even take a Japanese swordsmanship class – which has nothing to do with it but I wanted to mention at least once that we have those at GW). You would thus think that this motivation will last but human beings are human beings so … no.

There is of course a last kind of choice: the “I am interested in this class” choice. Yet, it is overall pretty rare since, let’s be honest, we are all students in a private very expensive university.

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