Did Anyone Read the Syllabus?

Sometimes, social media makes me brood (this is shocking, I realize).  A great deal of pop culture tends to fly over my head (again, I’m betting absolutely no one caught onto that).  Generally, I try not to rain on people’s various parades (okay, I get snide about Taylor Swift a lot, so maybe I should apologize for that one).  But as a rule:  if someone posted an enthusiastic post about Topic X, I wouldn’t write a snide/rude reply just to air my own grievances or dislike of whatever it was.

That’s what Twitter is for.

Kidding.  Mostly.  Not really.  This is why you don’t befriend the people you know on Twitter, though.  And it might not be the best idea to read some of my LibraryThing reviews (*there is no LT widget here; it uses Javascript, which WP forbids, and this is annoying).


Moving on.  When I taught English in the days of yore (I believe it was called Ye Olde Englishe at the time or something), I said, on the first day, to please note that nowhere did the syllabus direct that you must like the assigned books, books in general, or even reading.  None of that was a course requirement.  What was a course requirement was, that if you felt compelled to voice dislike of a book (section of a book, character, etc.), you did so in an adult manner and supply a cogent reason/argument about why you disliked whatever it was.

The idea there was that there was no way I could force everybody to like everything (and does anyone say, “welcome to Biology 101, where you will develop a lifetime love of science!”  I doubt it).  However, what I was hoping was that people would learn to think, analyze, and reason in an appropriate manner for the subject material.

In other words, “I hated that” was not a sufficient response, and nor was “that was stupid.”  If nothing else, let’s raise the level of discourse here.


The first day of the first class I taught, a student answered the question “what do you expect to get out of this class?” with:  “It sounds like we’re going to read about books then talk about them.  That’s stupid, and I’m dropping this.”  It was a reading literature course.  And he did indeed drop.


All of this is to say:  the level of national discourse has officially reached the level that student articulated so magnificently, and there are quite a few people I wish would drop.  Like that student, they do not know how to engage in appropriate discourse, and, like him, they’re not even willing to try.  Unlike him, though he exited with bad attitude ablaze, at least he did everyone else a favor and removed himself from the situation– thus not exposing everyone else to his thoroughly poisonous attitude.


What is currently making headlines as if it were appropriate discourse is shameful.  As anyone who has taught or has been in a class where this has happened can attest, a vocal student with a sour attitude can effectively infect an entire class and turn the whole mood south.  If this continues, I fear that this phenomenon will infect more and more of the country, given the way that powerful personalities can control larger groups of people (who are not necessarily weak-minded; that is not the implication).


Before ascribing to any position or belief, think back to that high school or college English teacher who kept asking you to defend your position, to provide evidence in support of your thesis.  Remember that you had to have a solid basis for that evidence:  something you could reference directly and that the objective reader would be swayed by.

If all else fails, start with an outline.

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