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Trevor Hedberg

Hmmm... In this situation, I'd probably ask for some clarification. Specifically, what is the student hoping to gain from attending your class? And more generally, what is the student hoping to gain from attending college? I don't think I'd know what to say until I had more information about her motivations and reasons. They might not be well-informed; in that case, some advice would seem appropriate. But if they are well-informed and carefully considered, then matters aren't so clear. I do think, however, that she should be made aware of the costs of her education so that she recognizes that paying tuition but not trying to pass your classes (e.g., by doing assignments) is a recipe for incurring massive debt without much to show for it.


You should tell her that her future self will probably want her past self to have avoided failing out of college. I'm guessing that students that fail out (which she'll do) have a harder time getting back in than those that decide to leave. I'm also guessing that she'll admit that she doesn't know her self so well that she knows what her future self will prefer. So, her future self will probably want her past self to either do the work or drop out. I had a student once who I liked quite a lot who said something similar to me. He wanted to be a professional poker player, his parents wanted him to go to college, he didn't see the point but he enjoyed some of the classes. (He was good at philosophy, too.) He decided to drop out and play poker. He did it early enough that he could come back if he wanted to. College isn't for everybody and I think there's a pretty good number of people who should go to college later. It's important that they don't mess things up so badly the first time that they can't take a crack at it when they decide that it's in their interest to give it the old college try.


as a philosopher, you probably know that people often assert they know more about what they're doing than they could be said to understand in actuality. i guess you're not a therapist or school counselor, but all it takes is a perfunctory followup to the administration to get some sort of notice. chances are, her parents would like to know about their child's misguided vanity attempt at skirting authority or getting attention, or whatever it amounts to.

it's early in the semester, presumably. suggest that she just withdraw, instead of crippling herself both financially and academically for some wishy-washy ideal of rebellion.

Mark Silcox

Hey, this plan sounds about as good as any to me. You should certainly hesitate before putting yourself in the position of a career advisor; after all, it's not like she's claiming she wants to do something really appalling like investment banking or pharmeceuticals marketing.

Something you might have tried to disabuse her of, though, is the idea that you can learn anything of value in a philosophy classes just by sitting and listening without also writing.

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