I missed this story when it happened: a Republican state representative in North Dakota proposed a bill
in January allowing students to withdraw from classes with a refund if they couldn't understand their professor's or TA's accent.
Now, I've been a student for a long, long time (I went back to graduate school around the time my son was born). Ever since I was an undergraduate I've been hearing students whinge on and on about not being able to understand their instructors. Almost uniformly, it's been a pile of horsedung.
Most science and engineering students were the "smart kid" at their high schools. Often, they slid through their last few years of high school without putting much work in. It's usually shocking to them when they get to college and suddenly aren't being fawned over anymore--and aren't even remotely
the best anymore.
Most of us get over it. A few, though, start looking for excuses, and a professor that speaks with an accent is a wonderful excuse. Since most people don't do that much math, science, and engineering in school, they don't usually spit back the obvious rejoinder: "Couldn't you just have read the damn book? It didn't have an accent, did it? Or just listened a bit harder?"
My main question here is this: given the Republican Party's endless yammering about personal responsibility, what on earth are they doing aiding and abetting this sort of whinging? Aren't they even slightly embarrassed sponsoring a bill which gets defended like this (from a North Dakota senator): Mr. Hacker says he has taken several classes where the instructor's accented English was difficult to comprehend. "There were days when I would go home and have to study the material that they had taught, for the simple reason that I couldn't understand the things that came out of their mouth," he says. "It's one thing to go home and study a concept, another not to understand what the professor was saying."
--from the Chronicle of Higher Education
Gee, he had to study, too? What a terrible shame.
American technical dominance didn't just happen: it resulted from a combination of a huge public commitment to education and generous treatment of technically skilled immigrants. I'm deeply worried that we seem to be weakening both.