I know I created a whole other blog for my professorial snarkiness to get it off this blog, which is supposed to be about my kids and parenting issues, but seriously, I am at wit's end, you are my lovely online family. Chin up, and skip it if you aren't interested in Teaching Blues.
When I was in college- and honestly, folks, it wasn't that long ago- a syllabus was one, maybe two pages long. It included the name of the class, an overview of the lectures and what reading you were expected to do, a list of contact info for the professor, and what actual assignments would be. It kind of looked like this:
Art History Class You Will Love
Meets twice a week at this location
Professor ReallyCool, phone number, office number
email address (a big new thing when I was in school)
Times Professor ReallyCool hangs out in her office
This is a class about Art History. In an overview, it covers from such-and-such date to such-and-such date, and we will be looking at these Deeper Issues and generally wishing we were allowed to drink hot beverages in the classroom because we'll be doing a lot of learning and stuff while having an awesome time.
Buy these books. You'll be reading them.
You will have a midterm and a final. The midterm is on this date. The final is on this date.
You also are expected to complete a 20-page research project by this date. Please come see Professor ReallyCool to confirm your topic before the midterm. It is due on this date.
Here is the list of lectures:
Week 1 Introduction
Week 2 Wonderful staging stuff for what we'll be learning. Read this book.
Week 3 A really cool look at stuff. Read this book.
Week 4 More really cool stuff and what Professor ReallyCool wants us to know. Read this awesome article.
Week 5 Wow, isn't this great stuff? Now think about this... Oh, and read this.
Week 6 Stunning new issues to think about stuff a whole new way. Read this to understand what is going on.
Week 7 (Usually the midterm)
Week 8 A Deeper Issue you hadn't thought about before. Read this totally cool book.
Week 9 More really awesome art you wanted to see. Read this article about it.
Week 10 Some Deeper Questions about art. Read another book.
Week 11 How this art might relate to other art. Read these articles, they're awesome.
Week 12 Other Art that probably was influenced by this art. Here's a book about it.
Week 13 More Deeper Issues to make us rethink our assumptions. Read this book.
Week 14 Art is so totally awesome that we want all our friends to take this class. Read this article and this article.
Week 15 Either presentations about our projects, or a kick-ass wrap-lecture. (And here's some more reading).
Final on this Date.
And that was it. Were my professors tearing their hair out about students making excuses about not coming to class or not having their textbooks? Did they have students reading newspapers, email, Facebook in their classes?
My syllabus is now six pages long, before the outline of lectures. It includes policies for attendance, policies for academic honesty, policies for cell phones, computers, reading, and other distractions. It lays out the assignments in excruciating detail, from the format of the tests to the exact requirements for notating and documenting a research assignment (including font and spacing). Now I am going to have to add in a statement saying, "You are required to have your textbook when you begin this class. If you are unable to purchase the textbook, please locate and use the copies available in the library."
When I was in college, it was assumed that the student handbook policies- such as "have your textbook" and "You are only permitted two unexcused absences per class" applied to all of your classes. A professor didn't put that stuff in each and every syllabus. the idea of using a cell phone during class time was of course ridiculous, they weren't that pervasive, but anything that made noise or distraction was just known to be verboten. You just didn't. If you did, the professor could flunk you. Just like that.
I did have a friend who got through college by asking for extensions from every single professor. She was famous for it. Even the professors knew about it, and I think they just planned accordingly when they saw her name on the roster. She was also known to be excruciatingly annoying, both to her classmates and her professors, for asking for extensions. But the point was, she was famous for it because it was so rare. Not anymore. Heck, my grad program didn't permit "Incompletes." If you had an incomplete on your record, you sacrificed your funding. Period.
Two weeks into the semester, I have students emailing me for extensions because they don't have their textbook. Big red flag: problem student here. Seriously, I have never had a student who, having "issues" at the beginning of the semester, did not continue to be a pain in my patookas for the rest of the semester. Not one. I've stopped allowing late adds, I don't care who died or what medical procedure you had. No extra credit here- more painfully poor work is not going to help your grade. And if you cannot be bothered to even think of going to the library to get your reading done, are you really ready to be in a college-level class?
And folks, it is really very depressing to see so many people unable to think for themselves, to have them insist on having things all spelled out as if we were all lawyers looking for loopholes. I think I prefer the days when a professor could just flunk you for being an arrogant jerk.
Just like that.