Do people with advanced degrees think they are smarter than everyone else? Not the smart ones.
Do people with advanced degrees think they are infallible? Again, not the smart ones.
Do people with doctoral degrees, by and large, deny that Australia is a country?
At least one did—and was so certain she was correct, she refused to reconsider, even when a student’s degree hung in the balance.
The class cost nearly $1,000, but that wasn’t why it mattered—the class was the final hurdle between herself and that college degree she sought.
One of her assignments was to compare social norms in two different countries. Arnold decided to compare social media use between the United States and Australia.
So far, so good.
G-o-o—How Is That Spelled?Arnold turned in her project, and on Feb.1, got her grade—and got quite a shock. And then, another shock.
The first shock came when she saw she had received zero points of credit for her work. But the second shock came when she learned why.
Australia, her teacher informed her, was a continent—not a country.
Arnold handled the situation with aplomb. She sent a few emails to her professor explaining the situation, even citing a reference from the SNHU library: “The research starter on the SNHU’s Shapiro library written by John Pearson (2013) states, that Australia is the 'sixth-largest country in the world' (n.p.). The full name of the country is the Commonwealth of Australia, meaning Australia is both a continent and a country.”
Arnold stuck to it.
That got a bit more traction. Her professor responded, “After I do some independent research on the continent country issue I will review your paper.”
And finally, the teacher couldn’t hold out any longer. She had to admit that, even though she had a doctoral degree, she still made a mistake.
Very Real Lesson LearnedIt may seem that this was an exercise in ego and lack of humility, but Arnold took a much more positive view, focusing not on the educator’s error, but on the education.
“Here is the lesson I learned: as a student going back to school in my late twenties I have sometimes felt inadequate. I have felt ashamed and embarrassed that I’m still in school and do not have a ‘real’ career yet. However, this class made me realize that I am equal and I can do hard things.
“I learned I can advocate for myself successfully even in the face of opposition brought on by a stubborn professor with a Ph.D. I hope this experience will give me courage to continue to advocate for myself and others.”
Now, That is making the most of a teachable moment.
But it doesn’t end there.
Realizing that other students might have had similar issues, Arnold pursued the matter with SNHU.
Arnold asked all media not to name the professor. She was considerate enough to realize that some people might get a little nasty online, and Arnold wasn’t looking for revenge, just a fair grade.
Southern New Hampshire University took the matter very seriously. After reviewing things thoroughly, SNHU tweeted, “We deeply regret the interaction between our professor & our student. We have apologized to Ashley, replaced the instructor, & are reimbursing her tuition for the course.
“To our friends in Australia, we know that you are a country & a continent, best of luck in the Olympic games!”
As it turns out, Arnold was not the first SNHU student to fall afoul of teacher error.
After hearing about Arnold’s experience, Sarah L. (@sarah_001) tweeted “Recently, as an active & enrolled student @SNHU, I have noticed &experienced exactly the same thing with my last professor. I contacted my advisor about it & ultimately, nothing happened & failed b/c I didn’t take it as far & put in as much effort as Ashley”
The professor still has her degree and her education. She has all the resources she needs to find another job, and hopefully, seeing the example Arnold set, will have learned a few moral lessons, which will serve her well throughout the rest of her life.