Today has been Reading Day.  It has also been the latest installment of Spring Deferred.  I suppose we should be grateful Winter: The Sequel went to the north.  Journalism's Jason Akst meditates on the changing nature of Reading Day.
Reading Day is an upbeat euphemism for “Dead Day,” the end of “Dead Week,” in which colleges and universities in theory relax assignments, projects and tests.

Fun fact: Google thinks a search about Dead Day is really a search about Day of the Dead, the celebration of dearly departed relatives and friends that’s popular throughout Latin America.

Anyway, the reason teachers should chill is to give students time and space to prepare for finals.

Until a few decades ago, many colleges really did observe Dead Day/Week, but it wasn’t a vacation. Classes, notes and reviews occurred; people learned. The learning was purposeful, more reflective, slower and less painful.

Nowadays (if the Internet is any indication), what happens is that far from chilling, faculty members are serving extra helpings of papers, projects and tests.

We do this because we’re sadists, bad planners and as foreplay to the big event – finals – next week.
Maybe. Maybe not.

The group project, or the capstone course, are modifications to the traditional structure of courses not necessarily proposed by students, or by faculty. Surely the bloating of the syllabus into a course outline into Conditions of Carriage is not the fault of the faculty.
The syllabi [c.q.] faculty are required to disseminate the first week of classes are legal documents that clearly specify what’s required, when it’s due and how grades are calculated. If they read syllabi, students know what’s coming nearly every day. Many assignments can be accomplished without penalty in advance.
Perhaps it's the usual, plenty of time to do it at the last minute phenomenon at work. Or perhaps, something more nefarious is at work.
No one ever accused me of being deficient in cynicism, but whenever I hear that colleges should be run more like businesses, my first reaction is that that mindset is one of the main things wrong with colleges.

The main point of a college education now is to help get students a job. It’s preparation for a culture of work in which short-term profits are valued more than long-term quality, where projects, meetings and priorities unfold at crushing speed and often without legitimacy, where people at the top get ridiculous paychecks while the wages of those in the trenches remain flat, and so on.
I'd be more sympathetic to the gripe if I were more confident that calling meetings and changing focus on short notice were an occupational disease of deans and deanlets only. In 34 years in the service of various institutions of higher learning, I can assure readers that that is not necessarily the case.

My final examination schedule, and exam week office hours, have been made available through several outlets to students.  We shall see how they do within a week.

No comments: