But it may be the only way

Pretend for a second that youre working at H&M, and the new spring line has just arrived. One of your friends loves H&M's subdued and modern styling almost as much as you do, however, the new pleated pants which just came in stock carry a hefty price tag and he's broke. He asks you if you can ignore store policy and use your employee discount and grab him a pair. Some of us would put aside our better professional judgement and oblige him. It's far less likely that if a stranger walked into the store with the same proposition, you would be so accommodating.

This is an example of how members of society make exceptions for those they have social relations with. The fact that courts take precautions so a jury never meets a defendant during trial, or that Olympic competitors are barred from fraternizing with those judging their sport, shows that we are fully aware of the influence and power of a social bond. When so much in the educational system relies on achieving a high GPA, shouldn't teacher/student relations also be examined for their potential to skew ones objectivity?

In a study conducted in 1991, 482 American Psychological Association members who worked as instructors were surveyed partially on their social interaction with students. A startling 60% of those surveyed admitted to allowing the likability of a student to affect their grades. Only 2% saw this as ethical, while 63% viewed it as being unethical. 23% indicated it would be ethical only under rare circumstances.

So we see that personal relationships can sway a teacher’s judgement. How, then, might these statistics be affected by classroom size? At Cap, many of us often tout the smaller class sizes, which offer more one on one time with the instructors, as an educational advantage. But couldn’t the smaller class sizes only serve to increase the likelihood of an instructor’s relationship interfering with their professional judgement? Some students spend time before or after class talking to the teacher about the course or its material. It can be argued that these students are simply trying to get the most out of their tuition, but even letting a teacher know you enjoyed an assigned reading carries implications. No doubt professors are readily aware that sucking up does occur, but I, and I suspect others as well, certainly rarely acknowledge social manipulation when receiving a complement.

Large institutions such as SFU or UBC offer classrooms with upwards of 200 students, making a potential relationship with the teacher difficult. You are certainly more likely to be reduced to a number. But perhaps this is advantageous in terms of fairness among students. After all, not every student in a class will have the opportunity to benefit from socializing with the teachers at Capilano, even despite the smaller classroom sizes. Shy, introverted students, or those who find instructors intimidating, may have trouble developing any kind of rapport with their teachers.

With Capilano's intimate classroom sizes, it's difficult to define when a teacher is no longer just instructing, and starts to act out a dual roll as teacher and friend. Perhaps the ignoring of the teacher-student relationship in terms of ethical implications is inadvertently related to institutionalized education’s role as job training. Outside of school, networking and 'who you know’ are clearly linked to success.

This potentially unfair aspect of the education system could simply be a reflection of the business world it seeks to prepare us for. Either way, it has me raising an eyebrow, and shuffling to the front of the class, complement at the ready, to ensure that my name is recognized on my next essay.

//Marco Ferreira

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