August 7, 2009
Here comes Fall
I haven’t actually ended the summer semester yet; this is finals week. But here comes Fall. I’m working on the new syllabus, with the new sections required by the college as well as things that need to be changed and updated based on issues with my students the last few semesters.
I’m up to 11 frickin’ pages. Not including the outline of the weekly topics and reading.
Seriously, WTF? When I was in school, if the syllabus was 3 pages before the outline, we cussed about how nitpicky the professor was. Two pages was standard. Here’s a paragraph about the class, buy these books, here’s the dates your assignments are due, here’s how much they are worth in your final grade, here’s the contact info for the professor. Sometimes a “show up, you idiot” was tossed on. Have a paper for the class? Here’s what you got:
10-20 page paper due, April 20. Topic of your choice. Discuss topic with Prof. Art by March 1 for approval. Bring Bibliography.
And that was it. Everybody knew the drill: that meant it was double-spaced, a normal-sized font, it had to be fully notated, and it had to be somehow connected to the class. You had to go to the library and do real research, not just browse a few webpages. Its pretty hard to write a real paper without a few sources; the general rule-of-thumb was 3-4 sources per page, but it depended on the assignment, what you were doing with it, and what kinds of sources you found. If you were a first-year who didn’t know the drill, that wasn’t a syllabus issue; that got straightened out when you had your topic approved.
Academic honestly policies? That was part of the student handbook. Attendance policy? Ditto. (Besides, if you don’t show up, WTF are you paying for?) You only included in the syllabus the ways you differed from general college policy.
Now? Each and every fine detail has to be outlined in the syllabus. It has become a legal contract, complete with legalese. Each assignment must be presented in exquisite detail, down to font size, margins, and they scream if you don’t give a list of “sample topics” to choose from (which I still refuse to do). If everything isn’t finely micromanaged, the student complain that they have no idea what is expected of them.
How about, I expect you to show up, read these books, and be able to demonstrate actual learning at a college level. Or get out. So there.