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Extra Credit Worth Selling Your Soul?

  1. Mar 7, 2014 #1
    Where do I began. My calculus 1 class in college is extremely fun yet challenging. It is very hard to get an a in the class, because the teacher is very rigourous with the theory. Ie employ chain rule with power rule 25 times with lots of radicals within radicals.

    I like the professor. He is extremely insightful and I learned many things with him. He demands extreme rigor. His class consist of 12 students, while the other 2 cal. classes have 60 max. He gives us mathematica assignments and participation in math club as extra credit.

    The problem is the people in the class and the math club are giving me stares and looks like I do not belong. Maybe it is because I am the only hispanic male besides one other person who looks European. It does not bother me that I am excluded from the conversations that happen outside
    before or after the class starts. The proffesor always greets me and talks to me after class and gives me extra work to do and he teaches me proofs(proofs are not done at my community college).

    My major problem is that I feel I sold my soul for extra credit points. The other teacher who runs the mathclub is very intelligent man. Yet he only says acknowledges the bright students (mostly people from the old soviet block).

    Another professor who encouraged me to seek a career involving math told me about the math club 1 year ago. The prospect of solving math problems that are competition level was intriguing. As well as a way to challenge and expand your critical thinking. Long story short. I built up enough courage when I was in final weeks to ask the director of the math club for joining. He did not say hello but took me to hallway and showed me the pictures of previous students. The students where all of European ancestry. He proceeded to point at them and called them all geniuses. He went on for an extreme somewhat bigoted/racist rant. It ended with you can not fathom solving these problems. He asked we what class I was taking and I said I passed my trig class going to pre cal next semester. He said I needed calculus 3 completed to join.

    Turns out the teacher excluded me because I did not meet his criteria. It turns out it is open to all math students that are interested in the club. I found this out this semester because it is worth half a test extra credit if one participates.

    today was even worst. After problems were solved I was gathering my backpack and just analyzing the problems. I am extremely happy to see such difficult problems and it makes me want to to try harder so as to one day I can solve them like 1+1=2.

    I got awkward looks from everyone and people were somewhat having a secretive conversation about me.

    This was the first time I felt and was made aware that I was not welcomed. Should I not go to the club meetings and loose the extra credit points? With those extra credit points I have a guaranteed
    A in the class. Or keep my integrity and risk getting a B in the class? His test are extremely hard but it is the learning that comes from them that makes it worth it.

    I have never compromised myself in a situation until this semester.

    I'm not uggly and anti social by any means. (I said that so trolls would not troll).

    I dont know I been at the cofee shop for hours thinking about it today.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2014 #2


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    What would it do to your integrity to be involved in the math club? Who cares what other people think or say about you. If i had a chance to get an A in a class, where i would have gotten a B. I would be all over it.
  4. Mar 7, 2014 #3
    I obviously do see the problem about going to a club where you are excluded and nobody likes you. I personally would not go to such a place at all.

    But I fail to see the connection between this and "your integrity" and "selling your soul". It's not like you're doing a bad thing by going to the math club.

    Also, it's sad to say it, but it's true: you're going to face racism a lot more in your life. Perhaps not as overt as now, but think about jobs which tend to go to Europeans and not to you, or colleagues who don't like you for some reason. It'll happen. I wish for a world without racism and bigotry, but it's not going to happen soon. So it's important for you to keep doing what you're doing and to ignore racist people as much as you can. Don't let racists put you down and tell you that you can't do something. Just ignore them and go on doing what you like.
  5. Mar 7, 2014 #4


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    First, I would file a formal complaint or even an informal complaint if you feel any sort of racism. I understand no one likes to make a scene, but I find that prejudice like this is only overcame once someone from the outside forces the people in charge into the spotlight.

    Secondly, what matters most right now is your ability to transfer to a good university after your time is done at community college. Grades do matter, and it is imperative that you do well when presented a chance to do so and to not back down when challenges present, even if it's something as awful as what you describe.

    As a minority in STEM, you'll often find yourself as the only one in class or one of the few. You'll often be hard pressed to find a professor who isn't Caucasian. However, in my experience, most professors simply enjoy talking to students who are interested in the field and actively participate. I did run into one that had a strong preference from Chinese students, but even then he graded fairly.

    So in summary, get that A, transfer to a bigger school with diversity, and do not let people dictate your actions.
  6. Mar 11, 2014 #5
    I would be very cautious about making complaints. While it is not right and is not fair, I have seen individuals in the past who filed complaints and some in the department made very very sure that the individual would never be able pass at least one class required to graduate. And the same caution applies to making complaints at work.

    I think it might be much safer to quietly approach a single individual and very politely explain that you want to ask a couple of questions and really do want to know the truth. I would then explain how it seems that you have somehow made the wrong impression on people and you would like to know if there is anything you can do to try to make up for this. If you can do this in a way that you can get one or more individuals to actually be completely honest, rare in this culture, then you might be able to change people's ideas about you and overcome this problem before it becomes even worse. You might try the same approach with your prof, but you should be even much more polite when doing this.

    A related issue is what is part of a classroom education and what is not. For historical reasons we take students outside and make them do jumping jacks. If you really think about it I suspect you might realize this probably did little or nothing to improve the rest of your life. Those classes are the result of a historical accident more than a century ago, but they persist today and probably always will. But we carefully do not have any classes that teach interpersonal skills or how to deal with the interpersonal conflict and even warfare that will almost certainly be a central theme of every day of the rest of your life in relationships and on the job. For dealing with other people students are expected to experiment on each other and get whatever they get.

    This is especially a problem for a few percent of students who are wildly driven in pursuit of mathematics and technical subjects. There is a book "The Hypomanic Edge: the link between (a little) craziness and (a lot of) success in America" which describes how a few percent of people have this crazed drive and likely have a genetic mutation that is partly or mostly the reason for this. If the education system had a sequence of classes for people like this that would explain how, despite really not wanting to have anything to do with this, it is possible to learn interpersonal skills, and thus be able to accomplish far more than they otherwise would and be far less likely to crash and burn without these skills, then I think we could save people from vast human suffering and make the people around them less aggravated at the same time.

    I am not saying that everyone in science and math is in this hypomanic group, it is a small part of that crowd.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014
  7. Mar 11, 2014 #6


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    I definitely agree with what Bill said. You need to be very careful when you file such a complaint, AND, you need to have very clear evidence for it. It may come down to your word against his, and if you cannot provide clear evidence of such a discrimination, the university's hand is tied because they can't prove your accusation. Based on what you have described, I can't say that you have clear evidence other than the way that you FEEL that you had been treated.

    I find what you faced to be rather puzzling because for many programs, it is a huge advantage to have minorities, especially women, hispanics, african-american, etc. Having a minority that not only qualifies for your program, but also is good at it is like the diversity double-coupon! And people looking at you funny just because you're hispanic.... what is this, the 1950's? Those should no longer happen anymore, even in math I would imagine.

    My advice is to try and tough it out. If you think something is necessary, do it. And maybe, if you think that you are being unfairly denied something, ask the person directly why you are being denied of it. Don't immediately jump or bring out the race card. If he/she thinks you are just not good at it, or not at the same level as others, then figure out if this is valid or not. After all, this might be the issue, but you are just not aware of it. But if you can show that you are as good as the rest of them, then be prepared to show it to him/her and then again ask.

    There's no guarantee here, but that's what you can do at this moment.

  8. Mar 11, 2014 #7
    As a grad student in the US, I find myself the only Caucasian in the room frequently. And many of our professors are minorities.
  9. Mar 11, 2014 #8
    It is a race issue. I was told by the proffessor that runs the program that I needed Cal 3 completed to join. (requirement is for any student who is interrested).

    I solved 3 problems and teacher just looked at me with a puzzled and somewhat angered look.

    I spoke to my actual math proffessor I am taking Calculus 1 with and he decided to give me the extra credit without going anymore. I told him I was made aware that I was not wanted there and explained the situation. I have to now go with my calculus instructor and study Loneys (trig book) for atleast 1 hour a week and ask him questions. I got a free book in the process lol.
  10. Mar 12, 2014 #9


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    Then have you considered transferring? If you are miserable where you are, then go elsewhere. If you are as capable as you described, then there are plenty of schools that will want you.

    BTW, you have not clarified where in the world you are located.

  11. Mar 12, 2014 #10
    Work really hard. Get really really good at math. But remember that there will always be people who will be angry and bitter and will do everything they can to defeat those they disagree with, whether it is right or fair or sensible or even self destructive or not. Remember that interpersonal skills are as important and perhaps even more important than technical skills. Develop alliances and friendships with those who will be able to help you and protect you when you will need it. And watch out for the signs of burn out. If you see those then do something about them before it goes too far.

    I hope it works out for you.
  12. Mar 12, 2014 #11
    The first and second point are at odds with each other.
  13. Mar 12, 2014 #12


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    I fail to see how making a report and overcoming obstacles are mutually exclusive actions.
  14. Mar 13, 2014 #13
    I could imagine that making a report may get the application for transfer to a good university department declined with likely no way of ever finding out why. The past has ways of following us.

    It is easier for someone to suggest that someone else sacrifice themselves and/or much of their life and chance at success, perhaps without even understanding that this is what they are being told to do, than it is for someone to decide to sacrifice themselves to this. If you fully understand the consequences and you aren't taking anyone else with you and you want to sacrifice yourself for this worthy cause then go for it.
  15. Mar 13, 2014 #14


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    I think that's highly speculative on your part. Personally, I find it offensive that you would suggest that it is preferable for someone to ignore prejudice and just move on. Obviously, we have different views on this matter and life experiences. Secondly, I find it ignorant on your part to assume that I wouldn't or haven't followed my own advice. The fact of the matter is I have been in this situation, and I have done exactly as I said I would do. So, please keep the preaching to yourself.
  16. Mar 13, 2014 #15


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    OK, let's not go all selfish on this topic and turned it into a matter of US, rather than the OP! So go easy on making accusations on each other here and focus on the problems faced by the OP. There shouldn't be any questioning of one another's motives here or this will become a thread full of personal attacks (and thus, a boatload of infraction points).

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