A French term, which I vaguely remember from high school as having something to do with John Lock’s theories and “the Invisible Hand”. The direct translation into English means “leave to do”, or “let it be”.
I have finally seen this theory in full swing here in my classes at the American University of Paris. Today, for my 300 level Art History course, I had a 15-page paper due. An intense research paper for which ten sources needed to be consulted, and which was assigned over a month ago. I of course agonized over it and started almost right away, and had the paper 85% completed by Thanksgiving (so I could take a break and play with my US visitors!) I emailed a rough draft to my professor, spent hours in the library consulting sources, and went through approximately four drafts before being satisfied enough to turn my paper in. I was the only one. Another girl I was sitting next to simply told my professor “I didn’t finish it”. I prepared for the meltdown that would have any of my high school teachers or the disappointed sigh any Loyola professor would have exhibited at this “so be it” attitude. She didn’t even care. She wasn’t apologizing or begging for an extension with the story of a dying grandparent or car trouble- she was simply being honest about the fact that she didn’t care enough about the assignment to make time. But the professor simply shrugged and said, “Fine, email to me it tomorrow.” Ummm, hello, not fair!
It happened again in another Art History course- with an extremely tough and intimidating professor. I slaved weeks in advance to have my paper ready by its 9am Monday morning deadline. I knew I would be in Vienna over the weekend, so I had my paper finished and printed out by Thursday night to avoid computer and printer mishaps. This professor had been extremely clear and foreboding about this paper being due at 9 am sharp. However, when I arrived at class, proudly clutching my work in my hand, several others students shuffled in late, sans research papers. “Oh, my printer spazzed.” “My computer deleted my file.” OH MY GOD THAT”S A LIE!!! Yes, computer problems do happen, and usually at very inopportune moments, but the chances of three students having the exact same computer crisis on the same day, which happened to be the day this paper was due, escaped me. This teacher was surprisingly okay with this as well, and told each student that as long as she had the paper by 3pm that day, no points would be deducted. That’s a lifetime when it comes to editing and polishing an art history paper. Another girl and I had the same paper topic- I worked extremely diligently to have mine on time, and really could have used additional time to research and proofread before turning it in. I was extremely disappointed in the level of follow-through and respect that these students had, when it was extremely clear that they just didn’t take the assignment seriously. I was even more outraged at the “laissez-faire” professors that barked ferociously but had zero bite when it came to tardy work. It was more of an insult to me, who had worked very hard and dedicated time to having this paper ready to turn in on time, and who will be held to the exact same standard as a student who had much more time to perfect or perhaps, ahem begin, their assignment.
I don’t understand how students over here just don’t show up on the day of a midterm presentation worth 25% of their final grade, or show up without the proper drive for a slideshow and then just “push back” their presentation to the following class meeting. Maybe it’s just my private Catholic high school upbringing where excelling at academics and doing your best in school is championed, and Loyola has reinforced that in me. All I know is that this would never be tolerated in the States to the extent it is here at AUP. It’s extremely true that Europeans are much more laid back and less stressed (and driven) when it comes to work, but sometimes I wonder if it really is the best path.