The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Americans may have no identity, but they do have wonderful teeth....  ...Jean Baudrillard, America, Astral America (1986).
Commentary of the Day - Feb. 9, 2000: Putting the Bite on Incompetence:
This week's Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Dr. L. Keith Yohn, associate professor of dentistry at the University of Michigan, has sued to uphold failing grades given to two dental students at Michigan.  It seems that the two students had failed this exam twice before, and were given a third chance at it rather than expelling them.

Like many dental school exams, this was a practical test.  The students were required to prepare crowns and temporary bridges (on a mannequin rather than a person - thank goodness).  Four professors were asked to grade the work, and they unanimously agreed that the two students had failed.  However, the university reversed this decision and changed the F grades to a C and C+, respectively.

Dr. Yohn, who has taught in the dental school at Michigan for 36 years, has filed a federal lawsuit over the grade changes.  According to the Chronicle article, Dr. Yohn has asked the court to enjoin the dental school from making the grade change, and he also has asked for $125,000 to compensate him for emotional distress, and another $10 million in damages for defaming him.

The Irascible Professor is not sure that the actions of the University of Michigan administration are worth $10 million in damages, but he is quite sure that Dr. Yohn did the right thing in taking action to uphold the failing grades.  Even in baseball it's "three strikes and your out!"  Universities have an obligation to protect the public from incompetent health professionals.  Clinical instructors play a key role in providing this protection.  As a graduate student at Penn the IP spent many an hour in a chair at the University of Pennsylvania dental school.  The clinical instructors were tough and demanding.  Student work had to be near perfect to earn a top grade.  Years later other dentists have commented on the high quality of the work done on the IP by the students at Penn.  This is as it should be.  We hope that Dr. Yohn is successful in his quest to uphold standards at the University of Michigan.


The Irascible Professor invites your comments.
©2000 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.