Ask a Professor

With Heather Moulton, English and Literature Instructor

Heather Moulton

Question: I am taking English 102 and am writing a paper about hypnotherapy. My question is: Have you or anyone you know ever had hypnotherapy and if so was the outcome successful?
– Christina Pietryga

Answer: Thanks for the question, Christina, and I hope your paper turned out to be a success. I have never known anyone personally who has undergone hypnotherapy, but I have seen hypnosis work on people. The thing with hypnosis is that the mind must accept that it’s happening; a person can still control him/herself if he/she chooses to, which makes hypnosis less dangerous but still effective.
I do believe hypnotherapy probably works to stop smoking or to change another habit, but the person has to genuinely want to change; the hypnotherapy just provides extra motivation (I have no actual evidence for that belief). Are you feeling sleepy, yet? That’s not hypnosis; it’s just my boring answer, which, perhaps, has lulled you into a hypnotic state: pretend you’re a chicken singing a Lady Gaga song.

Question: Is a good student only defined by good grades? – K.D.

Answer: Fantastic question, K.D., and one probably on the mind of many students! I don’t think there is an easy “yes” or “no” response here (or this would be a really short column). In a world where all things are equal and everything is totally objective, the answer is a simple “yes” – grades are a clear reflection of quality: good grades = good student. The End. However, like all theories, which are perfect as theories, we live, work, and “student” in the real world. As an instructor, I believe that a “good student” attends (almost) every class session, reads and follows the syllabus, does all the assignments, and actively participates in class. Doing all of those things should lead to good grades, but that’s not always the case. Because life.

I’ve had an excellent student suddenly disappear from class, resulting in an F for the class, because of a family emergency. I’ve had a fantastic student with learning disabilities who simply can’t make the connection between an assignment’s requirements and a final product. I’ve had plenty of students who tell me about all the effort (real or imagined) they put into my class and still don’t pass. The reality is, I don’t grade on effort – the institution has learning outcomes and standards to follow (and I do follow them). I actually think there may be an underlying question within the question: Do good grades mean someone is a good person? Again, this isn’t an easy answer, but I think it is more clear-cut than the original question.

There are many more ways to describe a “good person” – one doesn’t even have to be a student to be a good person! Grades do not – should not – reflect whether or not one is a good person. Getting a D in science class or an F in literature class has no bearing on if a person is employable or worthy of being a godparent or accepted as a volunteer at the local food bank, for some examples. Getting a low grade in a class usually means it’s time to visit the instructor and/or the tutoring center for help – grades can be improved. Similarly, being or becoming a good person may also take some work but can be accomplished and, like scholastic success, is well worth the effort.

Final thoughts: “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X