What was your experience as a high school student? As an undergraduate? Did professors care whether people showed up?
Does it matter? Should we just assume every college student has adult responsibilities and treat them accordingly?
Do recorded lectures available on the web (e.g., Tegrity recordings) help more or hurt things more?
My take on attendance
We can't assume they read, because clearly people skim or blow off reading outright when they get busy. So, lectures are important. In that regard, Tegrity both helps (by making sure people don't just flake out entirely) and hurts (by cushioning the consequences of skipping class).
I don't believe that "truancy" is really a university professor's job to prevent, but I think we need to hold students accountable for keeping up and participating in a class, not just as a passive audience but as active members who ask questions and offer insights. If the presumption is that all that lecture consists of is delivery of canned slides and book chapters, no wonder people are bored! For a class to come alive, there has to be some mutual input. IMO, other students should be able to depend on an environment and an esprit de corps beyond the lonely doctor at the lectern.
A side rant on cell phones and other technology
In some ways, I'm a little discontented with the downhill slide in attendance and class participation. We have technology, but it's there to assist and facilitate study, not slacking. When people are having to phone their roommate's cell phones in class on the Wednesday before fall break (which starts on Friday afternoon, mind you), because their car broke down, things have gotten out of hand. I'm certainly nostalgic for the simpler age before notebook computers and mobile phones became an acceptable thing to use in the classroom for anything other than note-taking.
Just my $0.02 worth.
In other news: Wei Wu took me and several of her other friends to go see the 2006 U.S. Army Soldier Show at McCain. It was surprisingly good: the choreography was fairly well done (in some cases they had to make do with the less-trained talent that they had, though one or two of the performers were excellent) and the singing was consistently very good. Thanks for the invite, Wei!