Does lecturing turn schools into prisons?

June 2, 2014 by Joshua
in Education

I would be ashamed of myself to teach a class with the passage below in its syllabus. I found it on a public site on the web for a science class—genetics, in particular.

You’re putting your children in prison if the punitive passage represents how teachers should manage their classes.

Should it seem foreign to me because I chose to study a particularly hard branch of science because I loved the subject? I don’t remember anyone treating me like this professor is treating his or her students. Medical schools require this class, so should we not expect the students to appreciate the subject, only to know it?

I just can’t see sense in that reasoning to write something so demeaning and presumptuous of guilty behavior. If the material is irrelevant, why require it? If it’s relevant, why not engage the students on something they care about? If the students want to become doctors, something is motivating them. Why not work with that? Treat the students like criminals and they’ll feel like criminals. Is that what you want pounded into people who are going to care for you?

I don’t know what is more beautiful than nature in general—the subject of science—or the human body—the subject of medicine. How can someone turn something so beautiful into something so punitive? If a teacher wrote this, I can’t help but conclude the method of teaching leads to treating students like prisoners.

If your class is interesting, why do you act like the students don’t want to attend? If the students don’t want to attend, why are you teaching something they don’t want? If you find it interesting, why can’t you make it interesting to them?

Recitation sessions are MANDATORY. The recitation section will include a short quiz and cover the homework sets and any questions from lecture. Attendance will be taken. You will NOT be allowed to take any in-class exam unless you have attended recitation sessions. Homework will only be accepted at recitation sections from those students in attendance and at the discretion of the recitation head (i.e., if you arrive too late, the recitation head does NOT have to accept the homework). If you know that you will be missing a recitation section because of an interview, etc., you must arrange to hand in your homework assignment beforehand. Late homework assignments will be accepted ONLY at the discretion of the recitation leader and will be penalized. To reiterate, late homework assignments DO NOT have to be accepted by recitation heads, so find out the policy for your recitation head.

It is acceptable to work on homework assignments with other students. However, all homework assignments must be written individually. Homework assignments that are very similar and/or differ only in stylistic changes or wordings are UNACCEPTABLE. Students with even part of one homework assignment that is very similar to another’s will receive a ZERO for the ENTIRE recitation grade (i.e., for 15% of your grade). DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT EMAILING YOUR HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT TO SOMEONE ELSE OR LETTING SOMEONE COPY YOUR HOMEWORK. If you are not familiar with the [college name] Academic Integrity Policy, it is available at [website]. I have ZERO tolerance for cheating on homework assignments, quizzes, and exams, and will deal with an infraction of the Academic Integrity Policy harshly. Penalties include receiving an F in the course, being reported to the Dean of your school, and/or being reported to the disciplinary committee at your college.

During in-class exams, the recitation instructors will hand out exams only to people in their sections. If no recitation instructor recognizes you, you will not be allowed to take the in-class exam. When the instructor gives you the exam, you will be required to hand in your cell phone (blackberry, walkie talkie, etc.), which will be returned to you when you finish your exam. If you do not turn in your phone and the phone goes off during an exam, you will be asked to leave the room and receive a ZERO for the exam. You will be required to sign a statement that you did not receive any external help on every exam. Different versions of the exam will be given out and no one with the same version of the exam may sit next to each other, so you will not benefit by looking at your neighbor’s exam. You are hereby FOREWARNED.

Imagine how a syllabus would look from a professor who wanted to engage the students. Who expected the students to like the subject instead of want to leave.

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