Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
It's funny.  Laugh.

Students Sue over Difficult Class 325

betaray writes "Students at SMU in Houston fail class because they need to know more than point and click. Students then file lawsuit. Craziness ensues. " Getting certified to use MS applications is obviously very difficult. Can I sue over my Calc II class? Sure, it was like 3 years ago, but I still get the shakes. Maybe I can get cash for emotional stress?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Students Sue over Difficult Class

Comments Filter:
  • The american legal system is a joke!

    Prosecutor: And you say, you were too stupid to pass the course?

    Guy on the bench: That's correct. They said the prerequisites were "basic mobile function of one arm and at minimum, one finger." I definitely have one good arm and at least one good finger.

    P: So you failed?
    GotB: That's right. I just didn't get the whole "Operatin Syssem" thing. Every time I heard some computer-geeko mumbo jumbo, I cracked up..."RAM." "finger" "gawk" - I couldn't help it.

    P: Your Honor - it's painfully obvious that Souvern Medothist is lacking and should be forced to shell out since "intelligence" wasn't on the list of requirements.

    Judge: Great! Just sign the check on my kickback and we'll call it a day!


    ./ lh
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It seems to me that most schools arn't trying to teach, they are trying to get the students to "Do the required work to pass a class"

    Too many classes are passible just because all the work is done, and arn't passible due to knowing the material.

    Mabie this will get better as I start studying colledge courses, but EVERY high school course I've looked into has this problem.
  • And not just in technical fields, although they are the worst. Many corporations hire degrees, not employees. They don't care what a person knows as long as that person has a piece of paper signifying that they graduated from a 4-year college. These kids are not taught anything in school and are not properly trained once they get on the job, since their PHBs expect them to be geniuses upon hire and will not spend what it takes to train them (after all, that's what college is for!)

    It's not all the corporations' fault. Many of these kids expect a job handed to them upon graduation and expect to be paid at least $50,000 a year to start despite not knowing squat! Why do they expect this? Because a few companies like Microsoft pay it. Of course, they expect 60-80 hour weeks for this kind of pay, but don't tell this to the kids.

    Personally, no 22-year-old kid should be paid more than $25,000 a year if they have no experience, degree or not. Let them earn their pay. Give 'em the big bucks when they have proved themselves! An education is good, but it doesn't replace actually doing a job.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The article says that the students quit their jobs to take the 5 month class - it doesn't sound like they were in a normal degree program. While all schools has have a business/profit aspect to them, some schools and programs are more concerned with enrolling students and getting their tuition than the student's welfare. While it does make a funny headline (student sues school :-) Maybe the school or program isn't really all on the up and up.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Pre-requisites do NOT indicate performance in any particular class. For instance, Japanese I has
    no pre-reqs, but Its sufficiently difficult enough that you can fail it unless you actually, God forbid, WORK HARD AT IT.

    Calculus I has no prereqs, but 80% of high school graduates these days probably couldn't handle it, and thats a freshman course. The ONLY person responsible for LEARNING anything is the student. The teacher takes NO resposibility to that effect. Now, if the student asked questions relavant to the course material and the teacher was unable or unwilling to answer those questions, then I can understand their complaints, but I seriously doubt
    that was the case.

    In almost every course I have ever been in, the student is responsible for all material in the textbook and all material provided by lectures. This does not mean that the lectures will cover ANY of the material in the textbook, but the student is still responsible for all of it. None of the material in the textbook might be offered in lectures, but the student is responsible for all of it.

    In a college level course, simply showing up to class every day does not assure you a passing grade, and in the end, I figure that an instructor who fails all his students PROBABLY knows what the hell he's doing. At least a certification from that class would actually MEAN something.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    That story sure is a good one... until you learn the annoying fact that McDonalds had received repeated complaints that their coffee was *far* too hot. And McDonalds freely admitted that they served their coffee something like 20F hotter than their competitors since they were targeting the people who didn't drink their coffee until they reached their offices. They just never bothered to tell the customers to *not* consume the coffee they were just sold....

    20F might not sound like much, but it causes a huge difference. The time of contact required
    for a severe burn dropped from minutes to seconds. This woman was harmed more than others because of her age. (The elderly burn more easily than younger adults.)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I was in the business of providing instructors for certification based classes, so I have some experience with this.

    First of all, These classes start off with a basic list of suggessted requirements. They may have stated that all you need to do is point and click, but that does not imply that it would be USEFUL to have more experience. This is true with almost ANY subject. All they are saying is that a dedicated student should be able to pass the course.

    However, most of these courses, just like colleges, have a certain timeframe by which you will be able to withdrawl with a full refund. In the classes we taught, which were typically 1 full week (about 40 hours of actual classroom time), the student could quit anytime before noontime of the second day with a full refund, so long as they stated that either A: they didn't meet the pre-reqs, or B: The course content does not meet up to their expectations.

    I'm certain that any 5 month (or was it week, can't remember right now) curriculum would have at least some amount of time available for wussing out with a full refund. If you stay beyond that point, it is acceptance of the pre-requisites. Anyone making it 20% of the way through the class should have a pretty damned good idea if they can handle it.

    The only potential complaint is that the final grade had no relation to their performance in the class. If the students would have passed the tests, but the instructor failed them anyways just out of spite or something, then I would understand the suit, but that's about the only execption I can find.

    As for certification and money, this fits the description of ALL schools. A college degree is a certification, and all colleges charge money.

    Also, I'm certain that nowhere the school said that the student WOULD get the certification if they signed up for the course. Pre-requisites have practically no bearing on class performance.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Despite being posted on Excite and having a Reuters tag:

    1. SMU, as previously noted, is in Dallas, not Houston.
    2. A real news story would list the name of the course is, which Microsoft programs, and probably who the teacher was.
    3. Since when do universities offer courses based on a specific corporation's software? (If it were a continuing education course, it would have said that.)

    My guess? Unless this is incredibly incompetent journalism, someone's leg is being pulled.

    - Lawrence Person

    Evil Music available at:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Let's assume for a second that the students win
    their suit. Then what?

    Will they be certified to work with MS software? No.

    Will they find it easier to learn the material from another teacher? No. Who would accept a student who sued his prior teacher for making the class "too hard"?

    Will they find it easier to find related employment? Hell no. When I'm evaluating a candidate I don't hold it against them if they failed a course (quite the contrary, I am concerned that anyone who *doesn't* occasionally fall flat on their face is demonstrating an unwillingless to seek their full potential). I don't even hold it against someone if they blame the occasional failure on outside factors. (A bad teacher, a family crisis, etc.) But someone who *sues* over a failure is another matter -- I am forced to ask myself if I will be next!

    Finally, anyone who does decide to give these losers a second chance would be struck by their attitudes. (Or at least the attitude of their lawyer.) This course lasted *five months*; it's perfectly reasonable to have no prerequesite past basic familiarity with the Windows environment. If someone was already extremely familiar with all of the programs, why would they enroll in a five month certification program?!
  • I'm certinly no legal expert, but as I understand it, a class action lawsuit is basically a lawsuit where there are a bunch of plantifs. Anyone who wants can usually sign on. It's common in things like harassment suits from obese people who thought their employeer wasn't treating them fairly, and stuff like that.
  • The goal of COMPUTER SCIENCE is not and should not be to give people practice "handing real applications programming". Like the previous poster said, that's the type of thing that you should learn at a technical college, in some employer training program, or the way most of us do - from experience.

    Many of the most brilliant Computer Scientists have never done "real applications programming". Computer Science is MATHEMATICS. People need to realize this. You should be going to a technical college if the main thing you want to learn is to code.
  • Blow it out yer ear, Water-boy. We get taught the same things here at Carleton for half the tuition price. ;)

    I'm not surprised. Like I said, CS at Waterloo is overrated IMHO. Most of the reputation comes from the co-op program, the fact that so many top students come here, and the math component. But I'm of the opinion that there should be even more required math courses for CS majors though (they cut out Calc III as a core requirement, which I don't understand). The actual CS curriculum however, is probably not much better than most other Canadian universities, and I'm worried the increase in enrollment is going to do a lot of damage to the program.

    I'm personally double majoring in CS and Pure Mathematics so as to augment the CS stuff with something more interesting and challenging.
  • Cobol and C programming? Are you sure that's a University, and not some technical college? What kind of a CS program would focus on specific technical skills (like C programming)? That's not Computer Science! And are you saying you didn't learn about data structures and algorithms, operating systems, computational complexity, the theory of computing, compiler design, artificial intelligence, etc.? Wow. This must be why CS at UW has such a good reputation - other schools are so terrible!
  • Recently more and more people have been suggesting to me that I go straight into grad school and get a masters in CS. Bachelor's degrees are worth about as much as a high school diploma was 20 years ago. Kinda sad that I have to spend an extra 2 years of my life in school. Damn good thing I enjoy my classes...:)

    (URI still hasn't dumbed down their CS curriculum, thank god, that's what MIS is for *smirk*)
  • Were the prerequisites listed in the catalog? If not, I wouldn't waste my time whining about the counselor, I'd be looking for a professionally-run institution. If the prerequisites were listed, but you didn't take the time to check, that's your fault, not the counselor's.

    Maybe you can learn a valuable lesson here: the school wants your money, the counselors are salesmen. If you can't be bothered to read for yourself, don't expect different results. Two hours spent reading through the catalog could have saved you the trouble.

    Go, Salukis!

  • There needs to be a stigma attached to sucking at academics, otherwise it turns out to be ok to sit on welfare and do nothing but have barbecues in your driveway during the day, and lots of sex at night.

    Unfortunately today the common chant all over the country (media especially) is that being offended (negative stigmas) is the #1 problem we have and must be stopped. As well, coddling stupidty is the chic thing now, to show you "care," which just happens to be the primary trait people want in others (take Clinton, for example, he doesn't stand for any principles, but he cares so it's all right). So I don't see much anything possible for a good 10 years or so.

    One of my favorite stupid people stories is from a couple years back when like 80 or so high school seniors all get on a water slide and it collapses under the weight. I guess physics wasn't a required class there. Sure there were signs saying only one person allowed on the slide at a time, no horseplaying, people told them not to do it, etc. But dammit, it's the pool's fault that it collapsed, and they needed suing. A group of them even had the balls to go on NBC's dateline to say, "It's not our fault," and to get sympathy. Does anyone know what ever became of that lawsuit? If the kids win, the slide is constructed to hold 80-100 people (more likely put out of business, but anyway), then 200 people will jump on and another lawsuit is launched. And we go on forever, coddling stupidity, punishing normal people.

    Anyway, that's my piece. We're in a sad state here in the US, and it won't get any better anytime soon.
  • Could it be said that only MS-type people would fall for this? If someone came up and said, "Hey, join this class, all you have to do it point and click," I'd be rather scepticle. But that's me, not these 12. :)
  • Personally I have to think that these are perhaps the most short-sighted students on the planet, and I'm not worried about it becoming a trend even if they somehow manage to win. Students like these are looking for one thing, a piece of paper and a good GPA so they can get a job.

    Employers however are much more interested in honesty, trustworthiness and the all important factor of the likeliness of a candidate to sue them frivolously. Actions like this show that a person is likely to abuse any given system, show a lack of work ethic and any number of other negative qualities. I'd much rather find an F on an employee's record than a lawsuit regarding an F.
  • From the fortune file:

    "Never let your schooling interfere with your education."

    I love that quote... wish i knew the guy who came up with it (anyone know em? :))
  • I don't know the details of what they were trying to teach in the class, but if were a CS100 'this is the control panel' type class, and you failed, you deserve what you get, and whining (and suing) about it is useless. Now if they promoted a 3rd year database course as 'point and click', this could be a problem.

    Aren't there prereq's to the hard classes? I know when I took my 3rd year database class I had to have 2nd year db and a host of other classes that showed that I was not an idiot and had the basis of knowledge needed for the class.

    Now did this school not have this set up? Maybe it *was* a first year class that didn't need pre-reqs? Even so, suing is not an option IMHO.
  • On a diffirent exam, the AP Calculus test, there are guaranteed to be at least six problems that are unsolvable without a graphing calculator...

    Although I haven't taken the SAT yet, if the PSAT (practice SAT) is any measure of what the SAT is like, a calculator would not be of use except for arithmatic and possibly to calculate trig functions. While both can be done by hand or mentally, it's faster to use a calculator to find an arcsin than to to start drawing special triangles to generate a unit circle. If the test is only to see how fast you can do arithmatic, and not also to see what you can do with the arithmatic, it should be in the format of the 'time-tests' that I was always horrible at in elementary school. Calculators _can_ be inappropriate for some tests - a calculator would not be approprite for a time-test, and the (somewhat rare) calculators with computer algebra systems would not be appropriate on tests solely of algebraic manipulation - but calcultors are entirely appropriate on a test of general math skill. Just because I'm slow to multiply and divide dosen't mean I can't integrate and derive.

    A calculator is not a magic device that enables stupid people to pass tests. If you don't know what you're doing in the first place the calculator isn't going to be of much help.
  • by oxygen ( 403 )
    This is exactly what is happening at my local community college. One of the instructors expected the students to spend time and work on projects. The students complained to the dept. head that the class was to hard. Course these were the students that were sitting in the back row talking about ??? durring class and when the test came around complaining that what was on the test was never discussed
  • Not a bad point about the catalogs. I've been in classes that ended up being nothing like what they're described as (usually to their detriment).

    So, while I think it's a bit pathetic that these guys couldn't manage to learn how to use MS software, it would be nice to force the ivory tower to come clean about course content. I don't think it's out of line to ask for a refund if the class is not as advertised; you're the customer, after all.


  • You missed the point of the article you responded to. The author was suggesting that, while failing a class about MS programs is pitiful, Universities ought to be a bit more honest in course descriptions.

    Not everyone takes college courses just so they can party for four/five years before they have to join the real world. I know several people who came back to school to learn skills to help them get ahead in life. I suspect that's what was up here; if you've never used a computer seriously before, even Word can be daunting (I've noticed that 99% of users never get over the fear that they'll somehow break their expensive computer).

    The article never mentioned MSCE, by the way. That little detail seems to have appeared directly from your backside.


  • Ah, but if you drop a class, it's generally too late to sign up for another one. Suddenly, you're three credits behind and looking at spending an extra semester in college just to squeeze it in.

    If this happens too often (120-odd credits at 2-3-4 credit classes means that it'll probably happen more than once; it has for me) and you find yourself on the 'ol five year plan. I love college and everything, but I only know two people who are going to escape in the traditional four years. I think this might be a contributing factor.


  • I was temped to sue over a class, but not because it was tough (I just drop the tough ones) =)

    It was nore that the class was always cancelled. I'm all for getting the occassional surprise Tuesday off on occassion, but this class was cancelled a *lot*. I think we ended up having class maybe four out of ten times. I found myself thinking, "Wait a second, I'm *paying* for this!".

    I passed the class and everything, but I learned absoluted zilch. I complained to the school, but their attitude was pretty much "you got your credits, what more do you want from us?"


  • I think that was Mark Twain, in... Tom Sawyer? Huck Finn? One of 'em.
  • Let's just view this from a different perspective- just for fun I'm going to argue that the students were not only right but deserved to win.
    In doing so, I'm going to make some assumptions without which my point becomes stupid ;)
    First, let's postulate this was MCSE training. It may not have been, but suppose it was?
    It's well known that MCSE training is not free. In fact, it costs quite a lot- thousands of dollars? This is a serious expenditure.
    It's also well known that MCSE training is not meaningful in terms of education. In fact it is primarily propaganda and an orientation to Microsoft systems that attempts to create workers who choose to tie workplaces hopelessly into MS ways of doing things. It's already been mentioned that MCSE doesn't cover the basics or give a working picture of networking etc: just points people at very MS-centric tricks and tools not available elsewhere. Therefore, what is being paid for is not actually education but a slip of paper giving you a high-paying job.
    Since the students were not actually paying for education, but were paying thousands of dollars each to MS for a piece of paper, it is not justified to deprive them of that paper simply because they were not educated: nothing about the course seriously attempts to educate them, it only fills them with propaganda and confuses them about reality. So the choices are between them being not educated, and them being not educated plus reciting meaningless drivel that is arbitrary.
    Since the course description did not assert that they were required to recite meaningless drivel, they cannot be held to that for their failure to recite the correct drivel: since attempts to learn how computers, NT, networking etc. really work could lead to incorrect answers (because the course expects certain sorts of answers- true or not!), inability to learn cannot be considered a penalty either, as that is not what is being tested.
    If the students were properly informed that they would pass or fail on their ability to memorize foolishness and arbitrary claims, they may have had an easier time of it: there is no reason to assume the students did not attempt to learn the truths about NT and networking and system administration, as this would appear to be the point of the course.
    Because of this miscommunication, it is appropriate for the students to sue and win at least the MCSE certification which they paid for in good faith. Their money is as good as anyone's, and their inability to learn does not make them worse admins than graduates who, in good faith, learned everything on the MCSE test and ONLY on the test. Both groups would be lousy admins but that is outside the scope of this argument.
    Therefore, assuming this was over MCSE status from a very expensive course, this argument rules in favor of the students, grants them MCSE status in good standing as certified engineers, and requires Microsoft to add the lines 'Rote memorization in outright defiance of common sense is required' to the course description. ;)
  • Posted by AnnoyingMouseCoward:

    When I was in senior high school, I got stuck with an incredibly lame physics teacher. My solution was to enroll for night courses at the local technical college.

    I'm sorry dude, but you can't blame it all on parents. My parents didn't think much about education. It was *my* decision to pursue an education, not theirs.

    I'm not a sociologist, so I'm not going to get up on a soapbox and rant.

    But I will say this. My experience in life is that many ( not all, but many ) people who are poorly educated simply don't want to learn anything new unless they absolutely have to.

    In this respect, there does seem to be a very distinct difference between people - those who enjoy learning during their entire lifetime and those who loose the interest in anything new once they hit puberty. It's not related to race or culture, or even your family life, but something that's very hard to define ( like a random genetic combination maybe? )

    Just my 39 years of cynicism gang.
  • by gavinhall ( 33 ) on Saturday March 27, 1999 @12:55PM (#1959943)
    Posted by Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters:

    I think a couple others have observed this, but based on the description given in the article, the suit does not seem at all illegitimate. Several things were purported in the article:

    (1) The course was for certification.
    (2) The school charged money for the course.
    (3) The school made specific and false represenations about the prerequisites for successfully completing the course/certification.

    If these features are not accurate, I take back my remarks of course. But assuming they are true, it seems like a straighforward case of false-advertising.

    I'm sure the MS certification would not be overly difficult for most ./'ers, but the apparent fact is that it *was* too difficult for the students they actually recruited. Probably the school could not get as much enrollment as they wanted by appealing to those who really did have the requisite background, so the advertised more widely.

    It is also important that this was not part of a general curriculum (say a CS degree, or public high school). In those cases, one could argue that the school/dept. has a right to set the curriculum as difficult as they think necessary, etc. But this was an isolated continuing-ed course for non-fulltime students. The school claimed, "any one who can point-and-click, and who pays us $X, will get this certificate". That's false... the school should pay for the claim.

    Yours, Lulu...
  • And all this could have been avoided by just one extra word: telling these idiots that if they could point and click that they probably could pass the class.

    And I'm not sure about anyone else, but doesn't getting sued over one little word seem just a bit rediculous in any context?

  • "We totally deny the allegations, and we're trying to identify the allegators." === --And when we find the allegators, we will summarily feed them to the Alligators. ;-P
  • by drsoran ( 979 )
    Hmmm.. if at first you don't succeed, drop it and take it next semester with an easier professor. :-)
  • Of course we're in school to get a piece of paper. Everyone knows computer science classes at most universities are a complete joke. The only reason to take them is to get the piece of paper to show your future employer to satisfy their HR department. I've almost never learned anything in a CIS class that I could apply in the real world besides basic C programming skills. Where the hell am I going to use the Cobol skills I'm being forced to learn for the piece of paper? I sure as hell don't want to sit behind a 3270 emulator my entire life and write cobol programs! ;-)
  • My MCSE was pretty easy, but it was for 3.51, didn't have any of those dynamic versions I've been hearing about recently, but I still think people would have a hard time coming in and breezing though the tests. No matter what you know, chances are you don't know how MS has redefined the terms, something I hate, but they do it.. Like on the IP test, redefining router to be gateway, and other such nonsense.

  • i wish UWaterloo was that protective of its underachievers.. :) I wouldn't be worried about failing courses then... hehe
  • Something needs to be done with the higher education system in this country, not the legal system, in this case.

    This sounds like something I've learned is a fairly common practice--get counselors to talk students into taking a class, then, after a drop-dead date, make the class ultra-hard. Many students will repeat a course to get a better grade.

    failing students==more revenue for university
  • I think it's a bit unfair for us to call the students morons, considering we don't know how the course was handled at that particular school.

    Yes, MCSE may be a joke, but maybe this particular instructor had more requirements.

    I once took a course called "Advertising Copywriting," for example, and there was huge emphasis on design and layout of print ads. Imagine, if you will, having to go out and bankrupt yourself getting computer equipment for a class called Advertising Copywriting to get an A just because a) your university's computer labs suck and b) the professor decided he didn't just want to cover design, despite the fact that that was the focus of another required class.

    My point is that the course might not have been as simple as y'all think it was.
  • Bless you. :O)
  • What did I say about algebra? No idiot counselor would let you take Calc I without algebra, geometry, and a course in pre-cal. :^P

    Yes, I had had *basic* biology. The class was being represented as a basic plant biology course, one for non-minors, which implies that knowledge gained in high school would probably be enough (or that the assumption was that I had gained the experience in classes prior to this one was enough.) It was not. Nor was it for 60% of the class (!)
  • No, you're blinded by an anti-American sentiment.
  • Ah. I hate to point this out (again) but my point was that this case probably has more to do with the class being misrepresented.

    As I have said in other posts, I have found that certain courses are mis-labeled, mis-described, and are filled with ill-advised students (ill-advised meaning an advisor has mistakenly placed a student without the proper prerequisite coursed under their belts). Then, after a "drop-dead date" (i.e. after a full refund is impossible) the course inexplicably becomes more difficult.

    While, yes, the implication is that students are lazy, the other implication is that many universities are using dishonest, predatory techniques to fill classrooms and generate revenue.
  • What sort of arrogance *are* you blinded by, then?
  • Reuters is a news service. This could very well be on MSNBC too, for all I know. Or your local paper.
  • I suppose I've been wasting my time--silly me, dilligently going to class to learn, and now I find that I'm not learning anything. :^P

    Thanks for the info. You'll save many potential college students thousands of dollars.
  • by Enahs ( 1606 )
    Maybe you can pick up the basics of a language in 1-3 weeks....

    ...but you won't know jack shit about handling real applications programming in any of them. That's a shitty way to run an educational program.
  • It's funny you should mention the word minority.

    At my university, we've had students try to use the excuse, "You're failing me because I'm black." (Substitute another minority group here.) In any case I've seen, it's not the person's minority group status that's the problem, it's that they couldn't be bothered to do the work or even pay attention.
  • by Enahs ( 1606 ) on Saturday March 27, 1999 @11:43AM (#1959962) Journal
    Just what the subject line said.

    The article states that the students were told that, if they could point and click, they could handle the course. Which, of course, was a lie. The class's content has been misrepresented, and students have been tricked into *paying* for a class that was not what they thought they were signing up for.

    I go to SIU (Southern Illinois University...yeah, it *is* a crappy U :O) and I would *love* to sue the department that I'm in (which is, strangely enough, journalism; I switched over from CS. Calc killed me. :^( ) Not only to counselors give false information, but the *course catalogs*, in many cases, don't match what the actual content of the class is!

    This could be a landmark (and wonderful) case. This could force universities to give counselors (and course catalogs, for that matter) relevant, accurate information.
  • by Enahs ( 1606 ) on Saturday March 27, 1999 @11:57AM (#1959963) Journal
    Come on.

    The students were told the course would be so simple, all they'd have to do is "point and click."

    I personally have had this happen to me. I once had a counselor talk me into taking a plant biology class because, as she said, "You need a biology credit and this class is *easy.*" Not only, as I found out later, did I need two other prerequisite courses (although I was never asked to drop the course), but, by the time I figured out just *how* far over my head this stuff was, I was at a point that, no matter whether or not I dropped the course, *the university was going to get my money.*

    This seems to me to be rather a dishonest course of action on the part of the university, and, having talked to students from other universities, a fairly common practice: set students up to fail so they have to stick around for a couple more semesters.

    I know what you're thinking: "Yeah, that's why you should make your own schedule." I was a transfer student. I was relatively unfamiliar with the university (other than it's reputation for CS in the state) and I wasn't given the option to choose my own classes since I transferred in.

    What the article doesn't say is what percentage of the class failed. That would be nice to know.
  • That makes the assumption that the class was taken at a college. At many schools which you shell out the equivalant of a 4yr college in 6 months, you have a choice, a)suck it up and work your ass off and b) quit without a refund. I have several friends going to school (tech. school, not college) to get their MCSE. Let me give you some figures for CLC....

    1: Fees for just the Classes (which last a total of 8 months) - ~ $18,000
    2: Books ~ $200-400 for each SECTION of the MCSE
    3: The class teaches how to pass the exam, not how to do the job of an MCSE (something you don't find out till you've shelled over the money)
    4: you're promised that after recieving your MCSE, job placement with the avg. starting salary being ~$40,000 for the first year
    5: they don't tell you that you need to have past computer experience (i know this b/c my friend had no previous computer experience)
    6: CLC does not give the MCSE exams, you have to shell out another $100 for the exam
    (note on the exams: they may or may not be adaptive -- MS is not required to tell you and MS has the right to change the score required to pass at ANY time)

  • Thank you; you responded much more politely than I would have.
  • I would contend that a good memory, although no doubt useful, is nowhere near the most important trait for a programmer to have. Nor is it necessarily the ability to pick up a new language overnight.

    The single most important trait for any employee is an ability to provide demonstrable value for an employer. In the case of a programmer, this means the ability to program - not to code, but to program. I draw the subtle distinction because I've seen too many people who think that they can program just because they can slap together code that they think will work, even if they themselves can't understand what they've written three months later.

    The ability to plan out the development of a program is not synonymous with being able to code. I suppose we could now debate whether freshly minted college graduates are more or less able to do this than your average self-taught programmer without a degree, but regardless of how those two groups compare this skill is something that is in fact acquired by (sometimes painful) experience.

    Finally, if there is any age bias in the computer industry, it is in the exact opposite direction - the industry discriminates against anyone over 40.

  • Actually, I did RTFA, contrary to your ill deduced assuption.

    I agree, only someone with a stron anti-American sentiment would write such a comment. Why? Because I am not blinded by American arrogance, believing that that the American school system if far superior in comparison to others.

    I think that you don't know what you are talking about. The American Education System is a joke, and virtually every US Citizen who isn't part of the American Education System (and quit a few who are) knows that.

    Unfortunately, this sort of whiny "gimme gimme gimme" attitude is exactly what one can expect from the typical student here. Part of the problem is the senseless job prereq of a college degree in the US (i.e. if you don't have a college degree, you won't get a good job, no matter how much you know), but in the end, it boils down to laziness on the part of people brazenly cheated out of the $8000/year worth of taxes paid to support the high school system.

    Jim Cape []
  • I was quoting to disagree with the "believe their education system is the best" part.

    Jim Cape []
  • No kidding. In fact, it's almost as if our society is encouraging the production of stupid people.

    • In general, school is portrayed as dull and boring by the media/entertainment industry. People that do well are portrayed as outcasts. It's more cool to be the class idiot than the brain.
    • Everything is being dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. Feel-good phrases like "We want all children to succeed" is just another way of saying we are lowering standards so any idiot can pass and feel good about themselves.
    • Academics get no where near the attention that sports do. We idolize and pay sports stars millions for just playing a game. The country is pissed off if the Olymipic BB team loses, but doesn't blink if we are at the bottom of the list for achievement in HS math and science. Athletics has it's place, but our priorities are way out of line here.
    • Day-time talk shows and pro wrestling -- 'nuf said
    • Most of our social programs subsidize stupid people to have more stupid people. These programs are then used by politicians to keep a dependant block of people voting for them. I've seen people who couldn't read and were dumb as posts take their sample ballot that incumbent Joe Schmoe gave them and fill the real ballot out just like the sample.

    This list could go on and on. While I probably agree that stupid people (IQ of 85-90 or less) should be sterilized to prevent the breeding of even more idiots, someone somewhere would label it as racist and illegal. Which is also why one cannot use intelligence tests as a basis of employment.

  • by ksheff ( 2406 )

    If I remember correctly they give 200 points now for each section. What is pitiful is that many colleges also allow people in who are in the top 25-10% of their high school graduating class. I read in the paper a few months back about a girl who was #1 in her high school class getting a 500 on her SAT (scores combined).

    This is all a result of years of just trying to teach for the lowest common denominator. No wonder so many people try to get their kids in private school or teach them at home.

  • When I took psychology, there was a section in the text that was about measuring human characteristics. According to this, everything (height, weight, intelligence, shoe size, etc.) that can be measured for a population of humans, when graphed forms the shape of a bell. Normally, 2/3 of the population is within on standard deviation (+/-) of the mean. The remaining 1/3 are split with 1/6 below (mean - stddev) and 1/6 above (mean + stddev).

    This prof may have been taking that along with experience teaching the course into account when grading:

    • A - people with scores greater than (mean + stddev)
    • B - people with grades between the mean and (stddev + mean)
    • C - people with grades between (mean - stddev) and the mean
    • D - people with grades less than (mean - stddev)
  • When I was in college, all the CS majors had to take a intro to Electrical Engineering course. It was perceived to be a hard class and the instructor gave assignments everyday that had to be turned in by the next class. This was a shock to many of the CS students who where used to having assignments only once every two weeks or so. Of course they bitched to the CS department head and unfortunately after a year or so the requirement was dropped.

  • by ksheff ( 2406 )

    IMHO, The C Programming Language by K & R is the best book on the subject. I've recommended it to people who were looking into learning the language. Much better than the Unleashed or Learn X in 21 Days type books.

  • That sounds about like the comedian that jokes about product warnings (ie. Preparation H: do not take orally...hmm you know someone wrote them a letter...=)

  • by ksheff ( 2406 )

    I wish I knew when & where I read it. I should have clipped it out. The sad thing is she's in a college someplace wondering why she's failing classes right and left.

  • Just showing up and putting your name on the test sheet will get you 400.

  • by ksheff ( 2406 )

    If I remember correctly, the point of the article that I had read (I wish I would have saved it now) was how some of the admission exceptions that some colleges have are letting people in who are totally unqualified to be there in the first place. As a result, they end up taking a lot of remedial courses. This becomes an issue for state funded schools, where they spend money teaching classes that should have been covered by the high schools.

    Besides, if a 500 on the SAT is the best that a person from the class can do, then the school is doing a pretty piss poor job. In this metro area, the illiteracy rate has been estimated between 20-25% and many of those people have high school diplomas!

  • It certainly wasn't any harder than Calc I or the Physics class that were prerequisites. I think what most people objected to where the daily assignments, which they weren't used to. I actually thought the class was easy, which was why I decided to add EE as a second major. The biggest problem with doing that was trying to fit the required classes for both majors into a schedule, especially when they were offered at the same time and junior year of EE was 34 credits of required classes.

  • All lawyers must die.

    Except for my girlfriend's father, agreed.

    CmdrTaco is functionally illiterate(well...maybe just dyslexic).*

    Why, because he allows Jon Katz to post here? I'm guessing you're one of those types who claims to defend free speech too.

    There is no point in continuing the WIMP "ease of use" fallacy; the efforts of GNOME and KDE should be redirected towards voice recognition and control, and AI.

    The fallacy is not in WIMP itself, which will be the easiest, most powerful, and most flexible interface we're going to have until natural-language voice-command takes over. The fallacy is in badly-designed WIMP, of which any Microsoft program tends to be a fine example (though if you really want an example of bad interface try XFig).

    That's what most GUI programmers don't get. WIMP is not automatically easy to use. You have to do it right. M$ was never good at that; the only worse UI I've seen is DpIV [] (great idea, but poorly done). Gnome and KDE both are very good improvements, but both still inherit some bad-WIMP principles from Microsoft (but then, most OS's do). NeXT and MacOS get it very, very good most of the time, though examples of bad interface do exist on each. Is there any perfect UI out there? I have yet to see it on any platform. But there are those which come close. You can't say the whole barrel of fruit is bad just because the first lemon you picked out was bad.
  • A few comments here basically say that because the school said that the course was simple, just point and click, the case should immediately be awarded to the students. It's not that easy. The students 'allege' that the school made statements about the ease of the course. This still needs to be proven.

    That said there are a lot of schools which do make statements like that. There is an entire industry comprised of 'schools' that take out late night TV adds which state point blank that if you take a simple course you'll make 50K per year.

    Unfortunately people and corporations lie. If this didn't happen we'd need no courts, no patent law etc.
  • Absolutely! The situation was predicated by several unusual factors:

    1. She did in fact put the coffee between her legs. Let's talk about this as a "fact" and ignore the debate about whether it was stupid or not.

    2. She received severe burns, costing $12,000 in hospital expenses.

    3. The insurance company was not pleased by this...and forced her to sue for damages (not everyone realizes that health insurance companies can do that sort of thing.)

    4. You can't just sue a Fortune 500 company for $12000, you need to do it for a "real" some of money.

    5. In the course of investigating the company, internal McDonald's memos came to light showing that the company knew that the coffee makers were making coffee that was way too hot, and that customers and employees would be injured. However, they calculated that the injuries and costs/lawsuits associated with them would be less than fixing the makers. Therefore, this was a strong instance of negligence.

    6. McDonald's lost primarily on negligence, and the fines were punitive, not in compensation to the person.

    7. The fines were lowered to $500,000 anyway (many cases like this end up being reduced anyway.)

    8. As far as I know...she still has not received the money.
  • She got what she deserved.

    So did McDonald's...and I have no memory of it being in a moving car.
  • The use of "riding" here is a rather unfortunate because, as you said, it is more likley to imply "moving." She did take the lid off, but, as I remember, the 20/20 documentary that they had on the case said that the burn occured at the drivethrough window. Unfortunately none of those articles are clear enough to direct us one way or another.

    Please also read my earlier comments concenring this /1612238&threshold=0&commentsort=0&mode=th read&pid=1757#1965
  • Mcse exams are nearly impossible to pass. They measure skill by how well you know mouse click on simulatoins rather then actual content. I flunked my iis exam because I was asked sql server questions and odbc questions that were not even covered on the course material. The course material is focusing less and less on actual course material and content because of cheaters getting the answers on the net. Mcse tests makes the cne tests look elementry. GO to and look at the NT enterprise and iis exams feedback and tell me all the people who called them impossible to pass are abunch of morons. Because NT has so much less conent to memorize compared to unix because of mouse clicks and menu's make ms put hard stuff in their exams. The fact that I have over ten tabs in the iis service manager in mmc and expected to know whats in all ten and if I click on the worng one, then the answer is wrong. Its rediculous. I have never taken the adaptive exam and I heard they are easier but the non-adaptive ones I have taken are tough. I had alot of trouble with networking essentials and I had no college degree so I had to memorize osi model and IBM"s calbing numbers (like your using an IBM type 4 calbe., Which one is that and how far can the signal go.). Networking essentials is rather easy if you have a cs degree but the other exams are really tough with or w/o a cs degree.

    You must be real pridefull
  • I don't know about you guys but the mcse tests I have taken are very hard comapred to other exams liek cne/cna. I admit they test on wording but if you don't know how to use global/local groups, the osi model, tcp/ip, or basic NT administration work, then its impossible to pass. I bet all you /.ers would fail if you have never studied for any of the mcse exams. Computer knowledge id not good enough to pass these tests. What gets me ticked is the course material only covers 75% of the test and the new adaptive tests reask you stuuff you don't know like the other 25%. I took the iis exam and was constantly reasked questions on sql server and type 800045 errors that weren't even covered in the couruse material. WHAT THE HELL DOES SQL SERVER HAVE TO DO WITH HOSTING A WEB PAGE! If your an iis admin and you had an odbc or sql server errors, you would call the database admin and say fix this and not fix it yourself and worsen the problem if you don't know what yoru doing?
  • Those sutpid sutdents are jsut being slily. Tkaing hrad calsses is jsut smoething you hvae to ptu up wtih as a sutdent.


    PS - sorry, I couldn't resist making fun of the typo.
  • erm, "worse before it gets better" - of course
  • "No such things happens in Europe" - I might be tempted to add "yet" to that sentence, some say things happen in europe about 18 months after when they happen in the states and there does seem to be some truth to it. I certainly hope not - while I'm quite happy to be living in the US the current state of our legal system isn't one of our finest accomplishments.
  • "Is that really how it works?" - so say the brits I know, I've always thought this was a marvelous idea. Thanks for the compliment on my spam block I figured if you can figure out what that means I'll probably enjoy getting email from you ;-)
  • While I certainly can't condone the ethics of a bartender who would serve someone 22 shots I am still forced to ask: "Who bears the ultimate responsibility for your behavior?". The answer as I see it should be *you*. Noone held that 21-year old down and forced those 22 shots down his throat, he most likely requested and paid for them. On a related note, some professions are dangerous, such as being a policeman or paratrooper, should we step in and prevent people from choosing these horribly risky lines of work? Ultimately this all comes back to the same theme: "People don't know what is good for them, we need the law to step in and save them from themselves". Is this the sort of mentality you'd like to see become even more pervasive here in the US? I certainly prefer accountability and individualism, sad to see I'm resoundingly in the minority.
  • Erm, eh? SMU is in Dallas, not Houston. I would have to say I don't find this behavior surprising - look at recent events: woman suing mcdonalds over hot coffee, people suing bartenders for being "overserved". This is just continuing the trend of people being totally unwilling to accept the consequences of their actions and I fear it'll get better before it gets worse. What we need is to take a page from the british legal system, if I bring a lawsuit against you and can't prove my case - I pay your legal bills.
  • Yah, I've thought of that - what about this: if you have a situation where a person couldn't bear the financial burden if they were to lose (but did have a good case) an attorney could offer to shoulder the risk and in response collect a substantial percentage if successful. I realize this would force lawyers to evaluate the case *very* *carefully* (since the attorney himself/herself would be out the money if the case isn't proven) but I submit that could well be a benefit, rather than a liability.
  • that "... specifically Microsoft Windows and ..." should ofcourse be "... specifically Microsoft Word and ..."

    the Gods have a sense of humor,
  • if you sign up for a class you are supposed to know basically what the goal of the class is and what you are going to learn, which is in the official description of that class. the official description of the class in discussion here is probably something like "the goal of this class is to teach students the basic use of the Microsoft Windows '95 operating system and the Microsoft Office suite, specifically Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Excell." (don't pin me down on that one folks).

    so, if you sign up for that class while all you know about it is that somebody said that "you can handl it if you can point and click" then YOU haven't done enough to find out exactly what the class was all about. considering the wording of the comment it's very probable that it was just a geste by a teacher to indicate that it entails really the very basics of how to use a computer.

    what those students are doing is the same as, for example, suing the military because you didn't make it through basic training, which you took because a veteran told you that it's a piece of cake.

    the whole point is that they should have known what the class was about when signed up, and they apparently didn't know what it was about.

    the Gods have a sense of humor,
  • Your comment about morons is too true to laugh at. I fit the bill as a CS (psuedo science) veteran and some of the best people I have worked with came out of the EE camp.

    To date myself here, DEC VMS has a nifty autogen tool that even an idiot could run to tune the OS. My experience taught me at a previous job that eventually the morons thought they were fully qualified system admins. It just seems to work out that way when you take a basically unqualified person and give them an easier way to reach the goal.
  • MS stuff is supposed to "easier" so easy you don't have to hire one of those expensive "System Administrators" to manage your system.

    I work at a major computer server OEM. In our Information Services department we have 3 Unix administrators and 10 NT administrators.

    Windows NT is NOT easy to administer, and suprisingly enough, the usual fix for problems is to RE-INSTALL the OS and all 4 service packs then restore from backup. This takes about 12 hours and needs to be done at least once every month for all 50 NT servers we have.

    The Unix machines have average uptimes of about 90 days. ( They upgrade the kernals a lot here. ) However the doen time is usually only a few minutes.


  • Before making comments about the students being stupid, one should consider that the article states that ALL 12 students failed. This is not normal. Can anybody out there recall a class in which all the students failed?

    My STAT400 class at UofM. The Prof didn't speek english very well (not the normal "not very well", worse then that), and had a hard time explaining anything. He was russian, and I think he learned his english in France. I'm fairly sure this was his first class in the USA. It didn't help that STAT400 was a hard class to begin with.

    The university promised he wouldn't teach undergrads again. No free retake. No lawsuit. A free retake would have been fair, I don't think a lawsuit would have been justifyed. For that one would have to prove that the University knew (or should have known) that the guy couldn't teach. I doubt they did.

    As for this lawsuit? I donno, if the University said in some offical capacity that anyone who can point n' click passes, and they knew that wasn't even close to true (from previous semesters), then they really did falsely reprsent themselves. After all if you signed up for (say) STAT400 because the pre-req was CALC2, but it really required DiffEq (which you didn't have) is it really your responsability to find previous students and check to see if the printed PreReq is correct?

    Should it be legal to rip people off just because they are dumb? Careful with your answer Marylon vonSavant may be the one defining dumb next year...

  • Dude, maybe 7% of the people in this freakin' country are as smart as the average person that reads (and understands) ./
    Many intelligent people don't understand ./. They just don't grok computers, either because they have no exposure to the actual mechanisms (i.e. they don't know what's behind the "Start" menu) or because "Their brains are actually wired differently" (to quote ESR).
  • Hell, I know English people with degrees in English Lit. who can't spell either.
  • And most importantly: after the case mcdonalds FIXED their coffee machines.

    Numerous people complained before but they never fix them. It took a lawsuit to make them fix them.

    I agree lawsuits generally suck, but you need to come up with some alternative to force corps to do the right thing if you want to get rid of them.
  • Congratulations on having a High School teacher that understands programming.
    I must take you to task however for thinking that being taught to program in C and Pascal is somewhat inferior to C++
    There is no perfect Language and, in particular, no perfect teaching language. When you go to University, make sure you
    learn a wider range of languages than just C++. If they only teach you one language, you are missing out.
    As pointed out in previous posts, the particular language skill is secondary to the process of transforming ideas and requirements
    into machine instructions.
  • ...Plays a little melody!

    It's more Fun To Compute.

  • by craw ( 6958 ) on Saturday March 27, 1999 @01:01PM (#1960011) Homepage
    Before making comments about the students being stupid, one should consider that the article states that ALL 12 students failed. This is not normal. Can anybody out there recall a class in which all the students failed?

    In my Calculus II course, I got a 4 out of 40 on my 1st exam. I was extrememly depressed until the prof told us that the class median score was a zero. The mean score was a 4. By the end of course there were only 6 (out of 30) of us left. This is the worse I have ever seen.

    There is something inherently wrong with a class in which all the students fail. I don't care about the point and click stuff that was mentioned. These students should never have been allowed to take this course in the first place.
  • Universities (in Canada for example) have too much financing problems and don't want to fail too many revenue generating students.

    In my university, some first year CS teachers had to "ease up" some programming classes because there were too many complaints. It came to the point the the teacher gave the whole program as an assignment, and the student just had to provide two or three algorithm lines. I know, I was a corrector.

    A student could also get 9/10 on an assignment even if the code did not compile but looked good anyway.

    I told the teacher I was a corrector for that I thought this whole thing was ridiculous. He told me that he would get into bigger problems if he did not do that.

    Good thing I finished school before this situation reached an embarrassing level.


  • I remember when I took my intro to C programming class. After every lecture the professor would give us some reading/coding to do. And during every lab session others would complain -- "he [prof] isn't teaching us anything *^%!! how does he expect us to [insert simple C function]?!!". One student who asked me for help seemed surprised when I just asked him "did you read chapter 5 page xx?" Reading the text he assigned usually contained more than ample information relative to our labs. Unfortunately, at the end of the semester, many students gave the prof poor reviews due only to their lack of inititive.
  • The only problem is what if you sue a huge company with a legitimate problem. Their legal fees will be huge, yours will be next to nothing for them. Now if you lose (as I'm sure we all know, winning a case doesn't depend on being right, it depends on how good your lawyer is) you are in a deep mess of trouble. I think SOMETHING needs to be done about the legal system in this country though. It's gotten completely out of hand. Basically people are stupid, and they don't want to accept the consequences of their actions.
  • by BlackHawk ( 15529 ) on Saturday March 27, 1999 @01:48PM (#1960057) Journal
    The article, as written, is IMO a case in point of why the media needs an enema. The article didn't give the reader enough information to make a decision as to whether the case warrants attention, or is undeserving of its 15 minutes of fame. The article says the class was for Microsoft software.

    OK, anyone want to take a stab at what the software was? If it was Microsoft Office©, then I have to say that "point and click" actually are reasonable prereqs. I'm a Novell Instructor, and I also teach HTML, so I know what kind of people we get in entry level classes. Some of them are doorknobs. But for MS Office? You could be a doorknob and still pull it off.

    Now what about Visual Basic? Or NT Administration? Or IIS? Any of these classes require a more thorough understanding of computers than "point and click". But I have heard IS Managers ask some Education people, regarding NT training: "What is there to know? MS makes it point-and-click, don't they?" As I said: doorknobs.

    But judging the students and their case is not advisable, nor possible even, from the scanty information we have here.

  • I'm utterly amazed that an university would offer such a class. A junior college or trade school, sure. Was it a night class, extension class?

    When I was in university (back when the dinosaurs roamed), CS101 was actual programming in pascal. You know, quicksorts, recursion, linked lists, passing by reference... The next class switched to using C on the UNIX, and we were expected to know both by the time our first assignments were due. The only C book available or the original K&R. UNIX documentation consisted of the man pages. Classes would start with 500 students and finish with 100 at the end of the quarter. Subsequent classes were on advanced algorithms, assembly, compiler design, etc. There were no DOS classes (windows wasn't around yet). There was a BASIC class for the benefit of non-technical majors, but they still had to learn how to program.
  • I suppose there could be some teachers who "get off on failing students." But in my experience, failing students is not fun. It's a painful, difficult decision. I don't want to give anyone a failing grade and I generally give every possible chance, every benefit of the doubt, to bring that grade up to passing.

    Maybe I just haven't been doing it long enogh to get mean and cynical yet.

    I just can't imagine a teacher gleefully failing anyone -- even the worst teachers I had in school weren't that evil. (Maybe I was lucky.)

    If someone fails, you didn't get through to them. Even if that's because the student didn't make any effort, you still feel as if you've failed as well. No teacher enjoys that feeling.

    Your other points are well-taken, though I personally would like to hear more details about this story. How, really, was the course advertised? What was the syllabus? From the article you can't tell whether these students were really misled or not.
  • My experience has been the opposite; my adult students tend to be the most serious and work the hardest, because they *know* the value of the money they are spending for the class and they know what happens to them if they don't learn the material and can't get a job.

    It's the students fresh out of high school that tend to screw around and not do the work. The cost of the course is not "real" to many of them because their parents or financial aid are paying the bills, and if they fail they can go live with Mon and Dad for a while. So they goof off.
  • So they were told it was going to be easy. Does that automagically mean that the school is REQUIRED BY LAW to make the class easy? That doesn't make sense.

    Whose definiton of easy are we going to use? Ours? Then the university deserves to win. The average non-computer literate person's? Then the students should win.

    You simply can't sue for misrepresetation unless there was some legally binding representation of the class.

    I don't care how much they paid for the certification class. $1000 or more is nothing...I'm paying $25,000 per YEAR on TUITION here. Should I sue to get my money back because the classes are misrepresented as easy and I have trouble? The fact is that I have trouble in classes that are "easy" here. How is this so? Come to MIT if you want proof that you are not as intelligent as you once thought you were :).

  • Back when I was in high school, there were 2 physics courses offered during my senior year: Honors Physics and AP Physics. When arranging schedules for that year, we were required to sign a form (along with our parents) if we chose AP Physics, acknowledging that it could be a very difficult course. Starting off the year, there were 2 AP Physics classes of about 30 people each.

    A good 75% of the students failed the first test (which you could pass as long as you knew f=ma and a few other extremely basic equations). The majority of them had their parents complain to the school, and demanded that the teacher, Dan "The Man" O'Halloran, be fired. Thankfully, the school didn't fire this wonderful teacher, but they did allow any student who wished to drop the AP Physics class and take Honors Physics instead. This kind of policy breakage was unheard of in the school system. After the dust had settled, AP Physics was 1 class with 12 people. That's 48 people that I lost a tremendous amount of respect for.

    I learned a lot about responsibility and determination during all of this. One of my best friends failed that first test, but refused to transfer to the Honors Physics class. He said, "I knew what I was getting into, I signed the form, I made a commitment. I don't back down on shit like that." Sure enough, with a lot of pushing and tutoring from myself and other friends, he managed a passing grade in the class overall.

    If only more of us could have that kind of personal drive.
  • Yes. What you tend to see in reports of court cases here is something to the effect of "Damages of some-money awarded to Mr Sued-him." And then sometimes, "Judge ordered court costs to be paid by (one of the two parties)." It's not automatic that the loser in a case pays for all costs, but it is a possibility. It is possible for someone who brings a lawsuit to be awarded small damages but not to have costs paid for by the other person: a moral victory but not a financial one. In fact costs can outweigh the damages so you end up out of pocket. I hadn't realised this wasn't done in the US.

    A side=note: those interested in a "traditional" UK libel trial, with all sorts of bizarre twists and turns, could do worse than check out the McSpotlight [] site. It's a huge site, with not a lot of news for nerds on it, but it does have some clear explanations of the absolute worst-case legal situation (in terms of complication rather than possible penalties): big multinational sues "the little people" and the little people, discovering that you can't get Legal Aid (assistance with the costs for legal action) for libel and slander cases, opt to defend themselves against a barrage of lawyers -- and achieve at least a partial victory.

    I should add that from ouside the US, America is seen as an incredibly litigious country. A common complaint here when reports of a particularly pathetic case turn up, is "It's getting as bad as America". It's nice to see that not everyone in the US thinks that the first recourse should be the courts. Although it's noticeable that the first reaction to a lot of MS stuff here, and to the UserFriendly tale, has been "Class action lawsuit!" (what on earth is that, anyway? It sounds - severe.) But anyway, it was reassuring to see people laughing this one - well, I was going to say laughing out of court, but maybe that's premature :)

  • Wow, does this mean I can sue my Differential Equations teacher for all the mental anguish he caused me? Seriously though, I have had classes that were more than a little ridiculous in there expectations, but this really sounds like a bunch of mindless jerks who should be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes. I think the problem is probably mostly in the preparation these people get in primary and secondary education. Remember the US spends more per capita than any other industrialized nation, and gets just about the worst results.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.