I’m a French Teacher, so I’m not sure if this counts but here goes: everone in the class had a fairly lengthy piece of French homework, and one student put the entire thing in Google translate, but translated it to Spanish.
Not a professor but back when I was in highschool; I was a library aide and I was walking into classrooms distributing some books and I walked into a class with the professor in the middle of an angry lecture on plagiarism because one of the students turned in an essay that started with “In my 25+ years of experience in this field.”
This happened in high school. Senior year.
Our teacher was talking about the phases of the moon and this girl raised her hand and ask if other countries have moons too. She thought the moon was only for the US.
A student in my economics class started his final essay with this:
“We are all familiar with the country, Africa. Yet at the same time we know little about them. All we know is that it is hot there, African Americans live there and they are really poor. This begs the question, why is Africa that poor?”
It was just so jam-packed with stupid I had to stop grading for 24 hours.
Edit: For the record, this was indeed a college student.
I had a student plagiarize on the final exam. It was a take home, essay/short answer exam. They knew to cite any sources, and to put it in their own words.
The kicker? This particularly bright bulb plagiarized me. The professor. She tried to pass off MY WORDS as her own.
High School Teacher. Many years ago, I was showing my students clips from Romeo and Juliet. Student stared at the screen in total bewilderment for a few minutes. Then she said, serious as a cancer diagnosis, “How can he be in this movie? He died in Titanic.”
I didn’t believe any student was dumb – he/she may only have needed the right motivation. Until I met RJ. RJ was dumb. RJ didn’t realize that the chicken we eat was the same as the animal. RJ was 21 at the time.
May or may not be dumb, but my friend and I went to her uncle’s house which had this piece of paper framed and put on the wall. It was a 0/20 on a true or false quiz. Her uncle was a professor and was just too impressed by such an achievement that he had to put it in his home.
I once gave a university student a C on a philosophy paper. She looked at me and said, “Do you know who my father is?”
To this day, I don’t know who he was, but her grade did not change.
One of my students told me he was going to be 21 when he graduated high school. I asked him why. He explained that he ages TWO YEARS every year. He is 15 turning 16 so that is 2 years. He is probably right that he will not graduate HS til age 21, but not for the reason he mentioned lol
Not a professor, but I worked at my university’s tutoring center while in college. Had one student who was a sports science major and would come in for tutoring for every single class. He had to do this because he was barely literate, as in reading MAYBE on a first-grade level. One of his assignments was to write about an important African-American figure. He asked me what African-American meant. The student was African-American.
For the record, I don’t blame him for being dumb. I blame every single teacher he ever had whose responsibility it was to ensure that he was learning, and instead just passed him on so he would be someone else’s problem.
Happened in the first week of a college anthropology course:
Prof: “Let’s list a few basic differences between modern humans and animals”
Student: “We have a heart beat”
I had a student who wrote an art history paper about Leonard Davin Chi. Didn’t even run that sucker through a spellcheck or anything. Referred to him as that throughout the entire paper.
I had a student this year who plagiarised in an assignment ABOUT plagiarism… This included copy-pasting the definition of plagiarism from Wikipedia.
I teach a class on the history of Psychology. When covering the chapter on behaviorism, and discussing the ideas of its founder, John Watson, who was a determinist (did not believe in free will) – a student asked me in the middle of class that if he was a determinist, why did he advocate free will in the Sherlock Holmes book?
I was really taken aback by that one.
Had a kid skip my class every day. I had a working discussion section one day every other week where the students would work on one of the homework assignments together in groups — the kid would show up during the last 10 minutes of class to join a group and put his name on an assignment. Only time I ever saw him.
So I gave him a 0 for all group work and a 0 for participation (basically just some free points because I’d randomly call on people to talk about the readings)
After he gets his grade, he wants to argue about the fact that I punished him even though I said I wasn’t going to take attendance.
No, motherfu*ker — I’m punishing you because you didn’t do shit, and you tried to scam off of other kids that did.
Not a professor, but someone in my class asked, “After a C-section, do they put the baby back in?”
I am not a professor, but I watched one facepalm after my classmate said this:
“Ugh! I don’t even know what a verb IS!”
This was in an advanced linguistics course for would-be English teachers.
One student asking the difference between psychopath and psychologist, in criminology class.
One of my husband’s colleagues said a kid came up to him after an exam and said, “I didn’t know the answers to the questions you asked on the test, so I made up my own questions and answered them.” The professor said, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and when I go to lunch, I’m going to tell all my friends.”
Not a prof but we had a creative writing assignment where we were given a piece of paper with a list of 5 unusual words to use in a poem.
I read my poem, which used all the words, and a girl went on an angry rant over the fact that I had used a bunch of obscure words that she didn’t understand.
I wouldn’t say dumb, but definitely baffling and annoying. She had somehow gotten all the way to college still believing that weirdly and creepily exaggerated coy-little-girl flirting would get her what she wanted, including with female faculty. It was cringey to see in action – literally tilting her head to the side, playing with her hair, pivoting her leg back and forth mannerisms, combined with semi-childish speech patterns while glancing up through her eyelashes. Definitely “I’m only talking to this one in front of witnesses” territory.
She told me that she was reading and studying every night and still not making progress on tests and needed help. I explained how to make written study materials to help her absorb information better. She said she’d done that and reviewed the materials regularly, but still wasn’t seeing results. Genuinely concerned and puzzled, I asked her to bring me her materials next class period and we’d go over them to make sure they were accurate and useful. She agreed.
Next class period rolls around. She announces, with even more exaggerated mannerisms, that wouldn’t you know it – she was so frustrated with her score on her last test (returned before our earlier conversation) that she’d thrown her study materials into the trash in a fit of anger and they were all gone. Almost as if they had never existed.
I looked her in the eye and said, “I think you should consider, then, that self-discipline may be playing a role in your grades in my class.” She huffed and pouted in outrage, and I never saw her again.
What makes me sad is that clearly someone, almost certainly her family, had taught her that these behaviors worked. No one sticks to a behavior that strongly unless she has had success with it.
My mom isn’t a professor, but she sometimes supervises college students who study under her in a practicum setting. She was on a home visit with a student once (she’s a social worker), and the family was showing my mom and the student around their farm. The matriarch of the family was gathering chicken eggs and commented on how small some of them were. The student suggested placing them back in the hen’s nest so that they would have more time to grow. This senior in college thought that eggs grow bigger the longer they can remain in the nest, like vegetables or something. This is also in a very rural place where probably half the population has some kind of farm or livestock.
Actually one of the smarter kids in my class. Ethics, awareness of social norms…not so much. He sent me an email after the semester ended, asking if I’d mind telling my next semester class that his digital textbook was available for sale. Oh, and that it’s a PDF so if multiple people want it, he can sell them all copies. I responded that I admire his entrepreneurial spirit, but it probably wasn’t a good idea to solicit his professor’s help in starting a piracy-based book selling business.
I’m late and not a professor, but I share this one any chance I get. 10th grade, I had a girl in my class ask the teacher how long it would take for a submarine to travel from the Florida to California… going underneath the country.
History. Prof. is talking about some expedition or something and mentions Antarctica, is standing in front of a world map. Girl raises her hand. Asks, “excuse me, but where IS Antarctica?”
Prof. stands there unable to answer for a few seconds, then raises his arm to the map and goes, “right heeeeeereeeeeeee!” While running his hand under Antarctica and making exaggerated Vanna White motions.
Girl goes, “oh, ok!”
I was a little scared. More for the professor. He had that, “I am severely underpaid” expression.
As a GA teaching freshman English, I had a couple instances of cheating that left me speechless. First, my university uses an online plagiarism checker and the students know this. With one student, over half of his essay was copied from a website. He looked genuinely shocked when I called him out on it, and then told me that his mother wrote the paper for him. I explained that his mother writing his paper was also cheating. Then he asked if he could get credit for the half that wasn’t from a website.
Another time, the students had to analyze a movie showing how it used the Hero’s Journey as plot structure. This was an easy assignment seeing as how nearly every modern movie uses this structure. The student copied the Wikipedia summary of Aladdin word for word, and he denied doing it. He argued it was a coincidence that his entire essay was the exact same as Wikipedia’s.
When my mom was a history teacher at a local high school, they went on a trip to Spain.
One girl, let’s call her Megan, was not quite a clever student. They went to a restaurant to eat and Megan was looking at the menu. She was frowning the whole time and made some “hmm, hmm” noises and looked like she was struggling with the language. My mom told her there was an English menu on the other page, because she didn’t understand Spanish.
3 minutes later she still looked confused. My mom asked her what was wrong.
Megan then ask my mom why the English language was so different than they learned at school. Megan didn’t understand a word.
My mom looked at her menu, went quiet for a second and told megan she was reading the German menu.
Not a professor. In the midst of an English Renaissance Literature course, one of my fellow students raised her hand:
“Dr. [Professor]? I am just so…like, how did these people survive without Wally World?”
She meant WalMart. She wanted to know how Renaissance-era people survived without WalMart.
Our professor stared at her for a couple seconds, and then moved on with his lecture as if he hadn’t heard.
A friend was substitute teaching a high school math class and was to proctor a test for the students. At one point during the test a student got up to ask if he knew what 8 x 7 was, but before he could respond another student said ” sit down….he doesn’t know the answer to that….he’s a substitute teacher not a math teacher.”
I don’t know if this qualifies as dumb or is closer to stupid, but…I had a student who didn’t show up for class regularly, and her grade was going to be a C, maybe a D depending on her final exam. What made her dumb, however, was how she tried to cheat on the final exam. She reached down into her bag and took out her phone, put it on the desk, typed something into it, looked at the test, looked at her phone, looked back at her test, rechecked her phone, then answered whatever question she was looking up. Just to make sure, I let her do it one more time. I was watching her THE WHOLE TIME, and she was completely oblivious to it. She got an F.
Not a professor, but I was helping out a younger friend’s classmate revise for his O-level (15-16 year olds) maths exam.
He had some past papers with him, so I looked through them and got him started with a simple problem to try and gauge how much he knew. The question provided some measurements in millimetres, asked you to do some basic number crunching, and finally provide the answer in metres.
He attempted it for a few minutes, but didn’t cover any ground, so he asked for help. I then went through the number crunching with him step by step and prompted him to do the final conversion to metres thinking it would be trivial.
He stared at me blankly.
Me: “How many millimetres are there in a metre?”
Student: “I don’t know.”
Me: “What does ‘milli’ mean?”
I take out his foot ruler and place it in front of him.
Me: “Show me a millimetre on this ruler.”
Me: “What do the lines represent?”
He gives me some bullshit answer that makes no sense.
Me: “Have you never used a ruler before!?”
I then proceed to explain to him what the millimetre and centimetre marks on the ruler are. I also explain to him that they are 1/1000 and 1/100 of a metre respectively and that the words “milli” and “centi” imply as much.
Me: “Okay, now that you know what these are and what proportion of a metre they are, can you show me how large a metre is approximately?”
I expected him to stretch his arms out and just say “about this much”.
Student: “Umm… from here to [nearby shopping mall]?”
I just stared at him in disbelief. I was honestly shocked. The shopping mall he referred to was at least 1-2 kilometres away. His exam was in 3 days. How did he even make it this far in school?
I was invigilating a 2hr exam once where students had been given very strong hints about the two essay questions beforehand. A student bustled-in making an incredible racket an hour late. Handed his completed essays in 10 minutes later, written on completely different paper to the stuff given out during the exam, and smirked and waved to everyone as he left. His lecturer marked it anyway and gave him 0% for both – essentially failing him – as the student had answered completely the wrong questions despite the hints, and he figured reporting the student for cheating was ‘too much paperwork’. The student appealed the score, threatened the department head when the 0% was upheld, and was expelled.
Not a professor. Heard some arguing from the chemistry class with some one shouting “but Mercury is a planet! How can can there be two Mercurys?”
I had a student who tried to argue that plagiarism wasn’t real after ganking the text of a one page paper on velociraptors straight from a top Google search result for them. “But if you read something, then you’re just taking the knowledge and thumping it back into a word processor, what’s the difference?” She was a criminal justice major.
I’m not a professor, but I studied modern languages at university and met a girl who had managed to spend an entire year abroad (a compulsory part of the course) living in the country where her language was spoken, working at a job with local people, and sharing a flat with three local people, and after the year was up her language skills had not improved one jot, and her flatmates had to talk to her in English because she couldn’t understand them otherwise.
I mean, I fully appreciate that some people find it much harder than others to learn a foreign language, that’s not actually the part I find dumb. The dumb part is getting into £30K of debt and spending 4 years of her life on a degree, then putting absolutely zero effort into actually learning the thing you’re paying to learn. Actually, to be that bad at the language after a full year you’d have to make an active effort to avoid it, never turn on a television or pick up a magazine, spend all your time in English and Irish themed pubs and ignore anyone who tried to talk to you.
During an oral exam (basic engineering electronics) a girl could not answer a single question. So I ask her simpler questions. I bring close the oscilloscope and point at the power switch – it was pretty clear it was a switch as it was written in bold letters ON/OFF – and ask her what was it? Answer – fuse
Not a professor but in my psychology class there was this one girl that would ask questions every three minutes, not the good questions either you know? like the ones where the teacher didn’t full on explain things or anything that would make the discussion better just the type of dumb questions where the teacher had literally said what she was asking about two minutes ago.
Anyways, we were viewing a map of cultural stereotypes and in Mexico it said “Maids and Gardeners” (which, okay, fair enough, its just a stereotype) but this girl legit looks at it, looks at the teacher and says: “That doesn’t make any sense because Mexicans don’t have gardens. How can they have gardeners?”
As a student, I rolled my eyes. As a Mexican, I burst out laughing. jfc, I can’t even be mad, I know she’s not racist, she’s just ignorant as hell.
In freshman year a girl asked my history teacher if George Washington or Thomas Jefferson invented the lightbulb.
In sophomore year a girl asked if Spain was in the US and the guy behind her said “We don’t need to know this! We’re American!”
I live in the midwest
I remember going on a bus trip with some student to a lecture and book signing event in Iowa City. As we were driving down the Interstate, surrounded by cornfields, one of the students yelled, “Who in the HELL eats all this CORN!”
Not a professor, but a high school math teacher. I had a student who answered a FaceTime call during the final exam. I just took her phone, told the person on the other end “Not a smart idea” and hung up on him. I let her continue the test.
Then I caught her cheating off the guy next to her twice, so I failed her.
And if that wasn’t enough, during the next period’s final exam, she burst into the room on her phone yelling, “‘Sup Mr. AlwaysShamo!” I just yelled “Go away!” and she left. Kid was so self-absorbed and clueless.
I teach computer engineering at a community college. One of my courses last term had a project component, where every student had a unique project. I posted my own project as an example. (I enrolled in a similar course a few years ago as a professional development activity.)
One student handed in my project, after taking my name off, of course. My feedback included “At what point did you convince yourself that I wouldn’t recognize my own code?”
His final grade … well below 50.
When I was working as a graduate assistant, the Dean of the graduate school where I worked was reviewing the capstone projects of two police officers who were about to graduate with Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice. She quickly discovered that they had plagiarized. She figured this out because when she opened the electronic documents, there was a significant amount of text that was hyperlinked. The links brought her to Wikipedia.
I’m not a professor, but a brother in my fraternity won the “most likely to be serving fries at McDonald’s” superlative at the end of the year.
He genuinely thought he earned the award because he liked french fries so much.
We were discussing the three most common phases of matter–solids, liquids, and gases. Using water as the example, I asked a student to tell me what we call the solid phase of water. He replied, “Oil!”
I was dumbstruck, but mine was only temporary…
In an international relations class:
Teacher: Can anyone name a country in the Middle East where people don’t consider themselves Arab? Student: Saudi Arabia.
The worst part? He was Persian.
This was just a one time thing, because this kid is a pretty sharp student otherwise.
Im a flight instructor and was trying to teach my student how to find your groundspeed while flying. To do this, you take two points (towns usually) that you know the distance between and time how long it takes to fly between them.
“Ok, bob, that took 7 minutes to fly between Bobsonville and Bobsville. The distance is 10 nautical miles, what is our groundspeed?”
“No, your speed”
“Yeah, 5 minutes”
“So, since it took 7 minutes to fly 10 miles then our speed is such that it took 5 minutes?”
I once had a classmate who thought we didn’t know the world was round until we invented planes.
Not a professor but in my statistics class a girl asked if changing the minus to a plus would change the answer.
Not a negative to a positive, like she wasn’t questioning how negatives worked. She sincerely wanted to know if changing from subtraction to addition would change the answer. To the professors credit she answered with a kind yes and only a slight pause.
I’m not a professor, but I did grade exams, homework (mainly worksheets), and some papers for a few professors back in college.
Hands down, the dumbest student I ever saw was one who turned in a photocopy of his friend’s homework. Yes, a straight-up, minimally edited Xerox. He had made the tiiiiiiiniest effort to trace over the first few answers in pen, but had stopped well before the end of the first page. Of a 5-plus page worksheet.
The best part was that his friend’s name was still clearly visible on the first page of the worksheet. This guy hadn’t even bothered to obscure it — he just put a SINGLE LINE through it and wrote his own name next to it.
While I’m not a professor, I did encounter a student in a biology class once that was a gem. She once asked if rocks were living things. Then a few weeks later, discovered that tuna was a fish…and not just a food…
Not a professor, but I used to TA for a post-graduate ethics in accounting course. I once received a paper that was literally a cut and paste of a wikipedia article. I figured this out by the fact that they didn’t remove the footnote markers so there were a bunch of blue numbers and  marks throughout the paper.
He protested the zero he received, loudly, in front of the entire class so I pulled up the wikipedia page on the projector and just started reading his paper.
My wife teaches public speaking. The first speech in that class is just a simple narrative speech. Tell a story from your life. She had a freshman tell the class about a time he helped his boss in high school kidnap the boss’s child after he had lost a custody battle. The student clearly thought the story would make him look cool and badass. Everyone in the class was horrified.
Not a professor, but a student….My first semester of college I took a communications course and on the first day we introduced ourselves and what we potentially wanted to do as a career and how proper communication is important in that field. My classmate shared that he wanted to be like the guys on the show Entourage. Confused and unfamiliar with the show my professor asked him to elaborate. He went onto explain how he and his group of friends essentially wanted to be a paid groupies – partying, traveling and sleeping with woman on someone else’s dime. When asked which one of his friends was going become a famous actor for them to leach off of, he said that they “hadn’t figured that part out yet”. It’s been a decade, I wonder how that career aspiration has turned out for him……
Not a professor but a fellow classmates of mine was in my chemistry course. They would go on rants about “Energies” I was very confused as I tried to deduce what energies they meant (Kinetic, Thermal, etc). Turns out they are believe in some magic spirits despite majoring in sciences.
I’m currently in a certification program for baking and pastry. Last fall I was taking a cake decorating class and one of our assignments was to visit and bakery, try one or more of their baked goods and write your experience about the visit. It was literally you writing your own Yelp review. That’s it. No word count or anything. Just a review. One of the guys in my class plagiarized a review he found online.
A girl in my earth science class asked “do the oceans go to the center of the earth?” 17 years old.
Not a professor, but I tutored athletes for $10/hour at a D1 school. Two stories, same guy:
“What does ‘colonialism’ mean?” I tried to explain a concept spanning thousands of years of human history in a sentence. Double checked with his athletic counselor and yes, English is his first language.
“What does ‘delinquency’ mean?” It’s for his class called “Juvenile Delinquency” We’re 2/3 of the way through the semester. He’s been taking this class for months now. Attendance is mandatory for athletes so I KNOW he’s been to this class.
The sad part is that he was a product of terrible public schools his whole life and was told since puberty when he shot up to ~7ft that as an athlete, school was optional. And damned if he didn’t graduate with the same degree as me. We walked next to each other at graduation.
She did not come to a single class the entire semester. She never once contacted me, never once responded to my emails, never turned in a paper or any assignment.
I was having office hours between the final class and when their exams were due, and she comes to me and asks what she needs to do to get at least a B-.
A few semesters ago, I had two students in a statistics course not know how to do division using a calculator — they didn’t know what order to press the buttons in.
A few years ago, I had a student turn in a term paper titled “Mental Disroders.” They then went on to misspell ‘disorder’ two different ways in the first sentence.
I’m not a professor, but the “dumbest”/weirdest thing I ever witnessed in college was a student who had to do a presentation on “Objectivity in Science Reporting”, a project she had voluntarily chosen, might I add. She had been provided with reading material by the professor a few weeks in advance. On the day of the presentation, she walked in front of the class, unpacked her things, seemed to be preparing, then sat down in front of us and proceeded to do absolutely nothing. After a few moments of silence, the professor asked what the problem was, and she said, “The texts were in English. I only speak German.”, followed by her continuing to just sit there and do nothing.
I’m not sure why she bothered to position herself in front of us, knowing that she didn’t have anything to present anyway, nor do I know why she didn’t inform the professor of the language barrier, let alone why she had signed up for a course that worked exclusively with English material in the first place. I do know, however, that it took a few more minutes of her just sitting there quietly before the professor told her to go back to her seat.
Not a professor, but during orientation someone mentioned the writing assignment that was due for students in a specific first year program. One guy asked, genuinely, “Hey, do we really have to write that paper or can we have someone write that for us?”
The leader responded, “No…you have to write the paper.”
“Ugh, why would I do that? I have the money to just pay some guy. That’s what I did in high school, pssh.”
He was 100% serious.
Not a prof but in my first year in a class with 300+ students we had an assignment called PeerScholar. We had to write about a short maybe 1000 word argument for/against legalizing weed, then you would look at 5 other peoples work and give them feedback, and 5 people would look at your work and give them feedback (you were also graded based on how good your feedback was).
One person’s argument was hilarious, I have a screenshot somewhere in the depths of my Gyazo account but one paragraph his argument was talking about how the economy would collapse from weed becoming legal cause everyone would be so high all the time they couldn’t work. I’m pretty sure he just wrote some last minute shit essay to get some marks since the final draft has the most marks but it was so hilariously bad.
Not a professor but a TA. I don’t think I ever had genuinely dumb students, it’s just that some people adjust more easily when moving from high school to university than others.
In particular, if you were “naturally” smart, you could just coast through high school. Material was presented slowly and frequently enough that missing a class here or there didn’t really matter. Not so in university.
For a Physics 101 lab course for pre-med students, this one student regularly came 45 minutes late to a 2-hour lab. So he’d miss the discussion at the beginning of the lab session where I’d discuss the task at hand and common pitfalls to avoid. Then he’d wonder why he wasn’t able to finish on time and why he struggled figuring out why his lab experiment didn’t turn out the way he expected.
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