noun, plural ef-fron-ter-ies.
1. shameless or impudent boldness; barefaced audacity: She had the effrontery to ask for two free samples.
2. an act or instance of this.
1705-15; < French effronterie, equivalent to Old French esfront shameless (es-ex + front brow; see front) + -erie -ery
1. impertinence, impudence, cheek.
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Many of us will be familiar, and indeed may be mulling over this word or its comrade-in-arms synonyms during this hectic time of calculation and notation. This morning, I awoke to a cheeky communiqué from a student exemplifying the meaning of this word. I have decided to reproduce the thrust of the message without its form, much like a translation. It should not take me aback, as they say. But as the dictionary confirms, the absolute barefaced audacity threw me through a loop.
This morning I looked at my grades and I see that I have a grade in subject. As of today, my cumulative GPA is number-point-numbers. I want to be on the Generic Honor Group and I would need a higher-number-than-I-have. Can you raise my grade to include decimal point-difference-number?
sent from my ipad.
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Well shoot, I was really, really hoping that you were insincere on this one. In fact, I was banking that you were facetious. I confess. I blinked a few times. I pet the cat. I went back to the kitchen to pour some coffee. Clearly, I was not expecting this. But, what was it precisely that I was not expecting? I’d like to think that I am not a rube. Students will always try to negotiate their grades – I don’t see this changing in the future, ever. Still…something about this message struck me. This message was different than the other messages I have received over the years. What was it that marked this message as not belonging to the group? Ah, well, that would be the effrontery. I would say most students have some sense of propriety, even if they often seem audacious by our standards. Usually, there is a negotiation involved in grade lamentation, non? Something to the effect of:
Dear Herr God Doctor Professor, I saw my grade and I [woe-inspired appeal to your pity]. Is there any way I can [random request to produce more work after the semester ends] so that you can [give me an unfair advantage over my cohorts]? [Shameless, desperate closing].
I’m used to this type of request – I think it is safe to say we’re all used to this type of request. And, of course, circumstances mitigate our responses. Was there a traumatic event we’re aware of? Does this student deserve the benefit of the doubt? Sometimes, the answer is yes and we arrange for something, change the grading scale, remove assignments, add assignments. This is usually to keep the student from failing when life got in the way but they really did do their best to overcome it.
This instance is akin to elective surgery; to vanity purchases. This isn’t a matter of life or death, that is, of failing. This is an appeal to make one’s self look better. I was honestly embarrassed when reading. Not because a student shamelessly begged (though, there was no actual begging here, hence the label of effrontery). But because it was a baldfaced request to give me what I want.
No justification. No reasoning. No offering. Simply, give me what I want.
What disturbs me most? The seeming unawareness of the impropriety of the request – no indication that the student understands that such a request is 1) absolutely out of the question, and 2) brazenly inappropriate. How did I respond? I wanted to write an impassioned, three page letter about responsibility, obligation, results, behavior, rigor and the future. Instead, I wrote two emotionless lines:
Your grade is a product of the work produced and not something assigned. I cannot give you any grade but what you earned.
Students wanting better grades than what they earn is not new, not interesting, and in no way unique. What simultaneously disturbs me and makes me very tired is the lack of effort in the appeal itself.
I begin each semester with a talk about how a grade is calculated, preciesly what the weights are with a caveat that only the student can determine her or his final outcome. Apparently, this is not clear enough. What can we possibly do to curb this type of behavior? Do any of you have a fool-proof technique?
For now, I will be writing dictionary.com to ask for an example change in the definition.
1. shameless or impudent boldness; barefaced audacity: She had the effrontery to ask for a grade she did not earn.