National Collegiate Honors Council


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© Copyright 2013 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


As teachers in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Honors College, we face semester after semester a familiar classroom scenario. There they are, our students, arranged around the room, eyeing us with some degree of suspicion mixed with a healthy amount of good will and desire to please. They want to do well; they want to work hard, but they also might be just a little bit bored, a little bit restless. They would love to try something new but are too afraid to do so. They grow terrified when pushed out of their comfort zones and faced with new challenges that might threaten their GPAs and hopes of medical or law school. We find this grade obsession and risk-aversion frustrating, but we think we understand. Richard Badenhausen reminds us that many honors students have learned to define themselves by their ability to perform in a system that rewards them “for uncovering and then delivering ‘what the teacher wants’” (28). Removing the opportunity to meet well-defined academic expectations threatens students’ “self-esteem and self-image. Who am I if not the person who writes the best paper or earns the highest score in the class?” (Guzy 30). Repeatedly, honors students have been told they are models of excellence in an academic culture that relies on testing and emphasizes “rote learning,” so they are afraid to fall off the pedestal (Badenhausen 28). Exercising creativity and risk-taking demands that students challenge academic norms, standards, and sometimes individuals. Our students do not want to disappoint anyone, including themselves.