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Student Workloads

What follows is a discussion about student workloads that took place on WMST-L 
in October 1996.  The lengthy discussion has been divided into a four-part
file.  For additional WMST-L files now available on the Web, see the
WMST-L File List.

PAGE 1 OF 4 
Date: Fri, 11 Oct 1996 22:26:50 -0400
From: Candace Widmer <Cxwidmer @ AOL.COM>
Subject: Teaching students with too much to read
A recent contributor to the list, a Women's Studies student, wrote:
 "Professors at universities and colleges are going to have to wake up to the
changing face of the student...Realizing that we are overworked, stressed out
and scared not to mention depressed about the lack of opportunities, they are
restructuring classes and changing expectations about reading loads and
writing requirements.
... I also found that the fewer the readings the better- as students these
days have very little time to read."
If students these days have less time to do their academic work (which might
be debated by past generations of students), what are we as professors to do?
 Should we reduce the number of reading and writing assignments?  Should we
cover less material under the same course title than we did previously?  Will
these students than be receiving a watered down degree?  Will they be less
prepared if they attend graduate school?  Does it matter how much work
students do in their courses?  What is the ethical response to this and other
students' concerns?
Candace Widmer
Cxwidmer  @  aol.com
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 09:07:30 -0400
From: begus <begus @ EROLS.COM>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
Thanks Candace for reply to that disturbing post.  I agree that students
from time immemorial have complained about lack of time for reading.  What's
happening now, I believe, is the dumbing down of American culture and
education, part of the the TV generation's inability/dislike of reading.  I
don't want to blame students because it is part of the cultural ethos which
disdains reading for pleasure. But I don't think that our response as
teachers ought to be to "dumb down" our expectations for intellectual
development and growth. But, we certainly do need remedial help for many
students working on college level.  After teaching Intro to Women's Studies
for 10 years, I am convinced that WS programs need to address the issue of
how to increase student's literacy skills while introducing them to all the
issues in WS. I'd be interested to hear what others think of this issue.
Sarah Begus
Begus  @  Erols.com
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 16:21:58 -0400
From: Bettye Pierce Zoller <ZWLPUB @ AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
>Suggestions on teaching students with too little time to read?
Many years ago in my college teaching at Southern Methodist Univ and
elsewhere, I discovered that many of my students would follow through with my
assigned reading my going to the library and photocopying materials as
suggested, or by receiving my photocopied reading materials in-class,
dutifully filing these away in notebook, desk drawer, or back seat of car.
Then, they thought their assignment was finished. It seems that photocopying
(and at best, quickly 'scanning' the material) was miscon-
strued as actually "reading" the assigned material. Therefore, I started some
years ago in the "reading aloud in class" method. When I pass out material,
we read it together in the classroom, progressing from one student to the
next, each reading a paragraph or so. Try it. You will see everyone in the
class, heads bent, attention rapt. Does this come as a result of hearing
people on television? Maybe. But students sit and passively take in and
absorb the information we read aloud. I know this to be true. Interesting,
religious organizations for thousands of years have realized the benefits of
the congregation reading aloud!
While it is true that students have less time to read and study, I believe
the instructor must accept this fact and find alternative methods of dealing
with today's students who like fast food and fast learning.
Bettye Pierce Zoller
ZWLPUB  @  AOL.com
Communicating With People and Helping People Communicate!
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 16:24:40 -0400
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
Hello all,
    I have also found the post of the student's complaint to be concerning.
I am a strong advocate of student's rights, but also responsibilities.  I think
that as professors we must be considerate of the student's time and other
restraints on their life.  I tend to view this by asking - can I read this
material and keep up while teaching my other courses, grading, doing research
and having some kind of life away from my job?  If the answer is yes, then I
feel the student can also.  For an undergraduate course, this typically
translates for me to being about 100 pages a week.  In my courses students will
typically read 6 books a semester, each avg about 200-300 pages and write a
corresponding essay of 4-5 pages per each book.
    I get _comments_ that it is a lot of work and a lot of reading, but I
don't really get complaints.  I find the reason for this is two fold:  1) I
list all books and all assignments including due dates in the sylabus at the
start of the semester.  There are no surprises and nothing that suddenly
presents it self.  2) I do not use a text book, but trade books that relate to
the topics being presented and discussed.
    The structure of the course demands the student read the material.
However, it also allows students to plan ahead and schedule their life in the
same way that I require in mine.  The reading choices also provide something
interesting to focus on and the relevance can clearly be seen.
    I question if students are complaining about reading not really b/c of
the reading or work aspect, but because of the structural aspects that they do
not realize or yet understand.  If that is the case, I think the complaint
legitimate, if it is simply - this is too much, I don't want to to this, I
question if they have chosen an appropriate educational choice.
Su Epstein
Su Epstein, Ph.D.
Dept of Sociology
SUNY   @   Oneonta
epsteisc  @  snyoneva.cc.oneonta.edu
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 17:40:20 EDT
From: Jo Ellen Green Kaiser <JGKAIS00 @ UKCC.UKY.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
TEaching at a state university, teaching many students who hold 30 hour
per week jobs and/or are parents, I have adjusted my readings.  I realized
that, at least in the literature classes I teach, I can only get through
a few poems or a short story or a third of a novel in class anyway,           r
particularly if I am trying to include all students in discussion.  So what
I do now is assign a fair amount of material, but tell students what we will
focus on.  I also have students write a written response to the reading at
least once a week.  I feel that the students have a more intense sense of
the reading this way, which more than compensates for them reading fewer pages.
However, this may be a tactic which works better in lit. classes (where
how students read is as important often as what they read) than
in social science or other disciplines where students are supposed to acquire
Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, jgkais00  @  ukcc.uky.edu
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 17:36:55 +22305931
From: Ruth P Ginzberg <ginzberg @ BELOIT.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
> However, this may be a tactic which works better in lit. classes (where
> how students read is as important often as what they read) than
> in social science or other disciplines where students are supposed to acquire
> information.
I was just wondering before I read your message:  Do busy math students
do fewer problems?  Busy science students forgo labs?  Busy music
students practice less?  Do busy history students learn less history?
I don't want to sound unsympathetic to students who have difficult
schedules, and I know it is not fair to assume that all students are
full time students with (at least) 40-60 hours/week to devote to their
studies.  But isn't there a danger of creating a 2-tier education
here (as if there weren't problems enough in that direction already
just considering student:teacher ratio, funding for equipment, etc)
in which those students priviliged enough to go to school full time
at colleges which expect students to study their subjects outside
of class get one kind of education, and those who go to colleges
which include many part time & working students get a very different
kind of education -- in terms of the substance and depth of the
material covered in the classes they do take?
I mean, certainly it behooves all of us to "trim the excess" from
our classes, select the readings carefully and ALWAYS be respectful
of students' time, NEVER assign make-work or assignments that don't
really matter very much, etc., etc.  But (as a person who claimed all
of her education at public institutions, and who WAS one of those
students with childcare & employment responsibilities outside of
school for virtually ALL of my undergraduate AND graduate educations)
I sure wouldn't want to think that the fact that I didn't have the time
or the money to attend school full time as a "traditional"
student had permanantly exiled me to the realm of watered down
materials and an inferior exposure to the very education I was
struggling so hard to acquire.  Frankly, it took me 13 years to
complete my undergraduate degree (going to school part time, and
on-and-off as the finances and other responsibilities allowed).
But THANK GOD I didn't have classes that assumed this meant I
ought to read fewer books!  At least I *learned* as much as any
"traditional" student.  It just took me longer.
I think I would have been *furious* at a class in which I hired
a babysitter (& paid good money for it) just to go to the class
and participate with other students in reading the text out loud
in class.  I could have read it at home WITHOUT paying the sitter.
Ruth Ginzberg
Women's Studies
Beloit College
ginzberg  @  beloit.edu
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 19:01:09 -0500
From: Diana York Blaine <dyb0001 @ JOVE.ACS.UNT.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
This semester I have nine novels and one play in a senior level lit class.
Each work gets approx 4-5 class periods, but in the spirit of feminist
pedagogy I told them at the beginning of the semester that they would
decide how far they could get for each class, by vote/discussion.  This
has worked beautifully--they clearly feel involved and responsible, can
tell me realistically how far they will get, and are honest when they
haven't gotten that far. They'll even stop a fellow student from "giving
away" something that happens later in the book--like spoiling a
movie, I guess--and this has forged a kind of classroom bond that I don't
always see.   Also I forget to ask at the end of each class
how far we should read for next time but they don't. It's great to see
them that engaged instead of bolting for the door.  And absent students
have even called me later to ask how far the class decided to read.  Score
another one for femped.  Diana Blaine, University of North Texas
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 17:10:19 -0400
From: holzman <holzmr01 @ MCRCR6.MED.NYU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
There's more going on here than students complaints "from time immemorial"
of having too much to read. The increasing cost of college tuition is
resulting in more and more students having to work part-time or even
full-time while attending school, in order to be able to afford to go at
all. A higher percentage of students are also older than the traditional
student, often with children to support and care for, often as a single parent.
I agree that "dumbing down" the curriculum is not the answer, but the
problem is a real one and should not be responded to with scorn.
Clare Holzman
330 West 58th Street, 404
New York, NY 10019
212 245 7282
holzmr01  @  mcrcr.med.nyu.edu
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 22:33:52 -0400
From: Constance J Ostrowski <ostroc @ RPI.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
Clare Holzman correctly noted that more students have to work part or
full time while attending school, and more are non-traditional students;
it's not surprising if more students than in the past feel overwhelmed
by the work that course work entails.
However, as Ruth Ginzberg's response makes clear, one way to deal with the
difficulty or impossibility of doing all the work necessary for a full-time
course load along with other work and life responsibilities is to go
to school part-time.  While perhaps certainly not the ideal way to go
(and I certainly would have preferred not having to take 15 years to
complete my Ph.D. that way), sometimes that's the only appropriate choice
in this situation.  I don't believe (as others have noted), that reducing
reading (or writing or lab . . .) requirements to compensate for what the
state of the economy, politicians, and life create is beneficial for students.
I try to be reasonable in terms of reading and writing load, but I can't
in good conscience reduce the amount of out-of-class work, because that
work is necessary to reinforce what little information/insights we can
supply/facilitate in 3 hours per week (on average) over 15 weeks (semester
I hate giving quizzes to "test" to see if students have done the assigned
reading; rather, what I prefer doing (particularly in my non-literature
courses, since the reading in the lit. courses often generates lively
discussion more readily than my non-lit. courses) is to require that
students hand in one discussion question or comment based on the reading
which will be discussed in that class.  (Thanks, Arnie Kahn, if you're on
this list--I got the idea from you; and this is similar to what Jo Ellen
Green Kaiser described as her practice.)  I don't grade what they write,
but count these as part of their participation grade.  I like this
technique because they have to engage with the material--they have to
respond to it in some way.
This technique works very well with my composition and speech classes.
However, it apparently was not well received in the Language, Women, and
Gender course I taught:  this writing, plus the research paper and the
essay tests that were required, generated the complaint that I had turned
the course into an English course! (well, truth to tell, I also graded on
*how* the papers were written, not just on what information was supplied,
since the intimate interrelationship of the *how* and *what* of language
usage, esp. in relation to women's use of language, was one of the central
concepts of the course.)
I wonder, by the way, if the problem seems to be worse for summer or
intersession courses, which are greatly compressed.  One reason I heard
that the novels course I was to teach this past summer was cancelled was
that students said that they didn't sign up for it once they saw all the
novels that would be required (there were 8, but most of them were shorter
novels that I'd picked specifically in light of the compression).
I've perhaps taken a roundabout route to suggesting that perhaps a solution
(partial, of course) to this problem might be stronger advising--especially
at the point of admission into the college.  What we may think is
understood--that of course a summer course bearing the same credits as
the same course offered during a regular semester *has* to cover as much
work as the semester course--is understood to us perhaps only because
we've lived in academia for so long.  However, to people just entering
the system--especially in the context of a Walmart culture--summer courses
(or even night courses, for which one needs to go to class only once a
week) might seem to be a bargain:  get the same thing for a lower price
(ie., expenditure of time and effort).  Similarly, students who are trying
to pursue an education but who also have family responsibilities (esp.
if a single parent) or who have to work 30+ hrs/wk need to be assisted
in figuring out the best way to juggle these competing responsibilities.
The answer, however, is *not* to just reduce the amount of out-of-class
work expected.
    --especially in Women's Studies, which already suffers accusations
    of being less rigorous, less substantial, less valuable.
Connie Ostrowski
ostroc  @  rpi.edu (alum account)
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 22:49:10 -0400
From: Shahnaz C Saad <saad @ DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
Clare writes:
> There's more going on here than students complaints "from time immemorial"
> of having too much to read. The increasing cost of college tuition is
> resulting in more and more students having to work part-time or even
> full-time while attending school, in order to be able to afford to go at
> all.
Another important point is that students often can't get financial aid
unless they go to school full time. This means that even students who
would rather take just one or two courses because they are working often
end up as full-time students.
Chris Saad, PhD
saad  @  dolphin.upenn.edu
saad  @  alumni.upenn.edu
(215) 790-0722
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 08:42:50 +0000
From: C Hallett <challett @ JAX-INTER.NET>
Subject: Teaching students with too much to read
Forever a lurker on this list, I finally rise to the bait--THIS I know something
about!  Generally, I find myself a hungry consumer of the many wonderful
ideas and weath of knowledge served up here; now I offer my "covered dish":
>A recent contributor to the list, a Women's Studies student, wrote:
> "Professors at universities and colleges are going to have to wake up to the
>changing face of the student...Realizing that we are overworked, stressed out
>and scared not to mention depressed about the lack of opportunities, they are
>restructuring classes and changing expectations about reading loads and
>writing requirements.
>... I also found that the fewer the readings the better- as students these
>days have very little time to read."
PLEASE do forgive the following, which, at first, sounds more like autobiography
than a contribution to the list, but it makes my point:
Having just earned my Ph.D. in May 1996, I am acquainted with the struggles
of the more recent students.  When I began ungraduate school in Jan., 1984,
I was already a "non-traditional-age[d]" student.  From that moment through
to 5/96, I was as full-time a student as one can be at each level.  I was able
(as are many students these days) to get Pell Grants for the undergraduate
years (1/84-5/87) with just one student loan that I used to study in Paris
two different summers ('85 & '86).  In the beginning I cleaned houses and
businesses on my days off and at night to earn money to live (Grants usually
only cover school costs)  later I worked as an RA ( in the dorm for "weirdo's)
--still as an undergraduate.  When I advanced to grad-school, (8/87) I was able
to qualify for TA status and fortified that awful "pay" with heafty student loans
for 2 years until I earned my MA (8/89) when I immediately began teaching
the minimum (2) allowed for adjucts at the community college level in addition
to my 2 sections at the university level as a TA  AND continued by graduate
I got my course work toward the PhD finished by 4/92, but it did take me quite
a long time, teaching as many adjuct courses as I could, to study for the
written comp's and then, actually less time, to write the dissertation and
defend.  Let me add here that too much of the dissertation time was taken
up while I waited for professors to "find time" to read my disseration and get
back with their suggestions.
NOT ONE WORD OF THIS IS A COMPLAINT (well, except the last sentence):
I read everything I was required to read and did everything that I was required
do and more--AND I worked as a teacher of composition in Florida, so I had to
grade 6,000 words per student (25-35 in each course, depending on the
simultaneously with my own graduate school work--PLUS writing papers for
and attending academic conferences (which I paid for with my own charge card
all but one semester) AND trying to get published so that I could get a
full-time tenure-track poisition once I got through--Oh, and let me add, that
while writing the dissertation, I was also writing letters of application for
and attending SAMLA, MLA, and CCCC at my own expense--oh yes, and I was
teaching a variety of composition and American Literature courses as an adjunct
at the same time.
SO, when my students complain about having too much to read, I smile and
shake my head.  I do not tell them the story that I've just told you, but that
whole story is behind everything I choose to assign and everything I choose to
expect form my students.  In any course that I teach, I include suggestions on
how to buget time and balance "life" with school.  I always laughinly suggest
that while in college/university, the last thing a student does is sleep.
cannot go to sleep until x-number of pages are read and/or the paper is written.
I also tell them that Murphy's Law is always looming and to prepare for the
(the printer will run out of ink, the electricity will go out while you're
 working on
the final draft of a computer-generated paper, etc.)
I, too, feel that 100 pages a week (20 pages a day with time out for the
is a reasonable assignment and I am always aware of students' needs to find time
to work and to play--but they need to learn that whining is not an option.  Yes,
students today are not raised to read and they find it difficult to do so (try
assigning an in-class reading and watch them struggle), but read they must.
I have understand the pressures and the stress, but I do not see how it is any
different for a student today than it was for me over the past 12-years; and
life is full of choices, stress, and pressure--adjust.
Dr. Cynthia J. Hallett
Florida Community College at Jacksonville
Kent Campus - Box 94
3939 Roosevelt Blvd.
Jacksonville, FL  32205
(904) 381-3430 office/voice mail
(904) 381-3462 fax
(904) 745-1530 home
email:  challett  @  jax-inter.net
     or:  CynJaHal  @  aol.com
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 10:01:10 -0400
From: Beatrice Kachuck <bkachuck @ EMAIL.GC.CUNY.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
Bettye's suggestion for students reading assignments aloud in class
resembles the "round-robin" method of teaching children how to read and
the method used in teaching social studies in upper grades, including high
school. The major objection to it is that students keep their eyes on the
page, looking ahead to see which section they're likely to be called on to
read aloud, to rehearse, or to read the sections that seem interesting to
them - skipping around the class doesn't help with analytical and critical
reading. Where religious organizations practice choral reading, the point
is to absorb text rather than analysis and critique, isn't it?
 As alternatives, I suggest the teacher be prepared with critical
questions generated by the text, including questions on how the author
develops the argument and how it compares with other sources they've read
and/or their own experience. It also helps to ask/require students to come
to class prepared to discuss certain elements of the text. Letting
students know that their class participation, ie., contributing to the
collective effort of learning is valued - by the teacher's response to
contributions herself and in calling on others to ask what they think,
and, yes, in terms of grades; this poses the problem of how to translate
kinds of contributions, which must be thought thru.
                  beatrice   bkachuck  @  email.gc.cuny.edu
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 10:02:08 -0400
From: Suzanne Hildenbrand <lishilde @ ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
I have to agree with Ruth Ginzberg's comments. I teach in a beleagured
state institution and the very idea that the faculty should assist in
downgrading the institution is astonishing. Do we really want to send
graduates out into the world with a degree that proclaims, "well hey, they
got a degree all right, but they only did the abridged readings, etc." It
seems to me that this is just one more step in degrading post-secondary
education the way secondary school ed was degraded earlier in the
century. OK, we let in all these folks, but we just assume that they can't
possibly do the work that was done by the small, elite group that
previously had access. Then as RG points out, certain majors or certain
institutions that manage to control admissions continue the elite status
and the others become clearly second rate.
This is an all too typical American "reform" in my  opinion.
Incidentally, if I recall my ed psych courses correctly, tests reveal that
very little is retained by listeners in sessions where material is read
out loud. There is some confusion I think with cultures where few read and
write and people learn their history by listening to elders recite or tell
it. There is also the example f the childern (boys) chanting verses of the
Koran. Our society is quite different!
We may be "reforming" our students education so that it becomes perceived
as witout value...as many perceive high school ed today. SH
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 16:10:41 +0200
From: Michaela Blaha <mic @ STH.RUHR-UNI-BOCHUM.DE>
Subject: Re: Teaching Students with too much to read
While this approach is certainly effective for all or at least most students, I
 find that for those who are really interested in the text and that which is
 *beyond* will be immensely bored. The time factor makes it impossible to
 thorougly discuss a text which still needs to be read in class. Valuable input
 that could be useful for everyone, including the teacher, is lost that way. As
 a student and occasional teacher, I have found that requiring to read texts
 prior to class is indispensable. A good compromise seems to devote part of the
 class to single issues/paragraphs of a text, so that even those who didn't have
 time (or interest!) to read have a chance to participate as well.
Micca Blaha
Ruhr University Bochum
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 11:06:04 -0400
From: Bones <bones @ MAILBOX.SYR.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
The issue of students with too much to read has at least 3 sides in my
mind. First there is the pedagogical issue of whether the instructor has
woven the readings together with the assignments in a way that is coherent
and encourages learning (through writing, critical thinking, and reading).
If this is not so, then students will quickly "catch on" that there is
extraneous reading in the course that they do not have to give time over
to in their already busy schedule (this includes the schedule of "growing"
which we all know is a very busy one). Second, there is the issue of
serious education from the point of view of the student. Does he or she
feel that anything in written form will only waste their time in the rush
to get a paper that parents, friends, etc. want them to have or is
education a goal in itself? Any course with a rigorous reading/assignment
component is bound to weed our people who would rather (sometimes for good
reasons) just slide through the system and pick up the degree ("thank you
very much" - door slam). Lastly, there is the issue of resistance to the
readings themselves. Is the feminist content considered "not serious
enough to spend time on"? While so many scholars rush to legitimize thier
work through quoting the "big boys" of scholarship (Foucault, Lacan,
Hegal, Marx, the list goes on) are our students getting the message that
texts by women are at best only secondary reading? This is not to say that
these boys do not have something to say, I study and write on them
continuously, but just to note the "message" behind the celebritation of
their texts.
Linda Wayne
Syracuse University
bones  @  mailbox.syr.edu
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 12:34:00 -0400
From: Renee Vaughan <yogidog @ PIONEERPLANET.INFI.NET>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
>"reading aloud in class" method...  we read it together in the classroom,
progressing >from one student to the next, each reading a paragraph or so...
You will see everyone >in class, heads bent.... students sit and passively
take in and absorb the information"
The key word here is "passive."   I would venture to guess the students
heads are bent becuase they are either   1.) asleep, 2.) attempting to hide
their frustration, or 3.) daydreaming about something - anything - more
interesting than being read to.
Education, in my humble opinion, should not ever be a passive experience --
for the student or the teacher.  I agree that reading aloud in class does
ensure that the students "hear" the material (note - I did not use the word
"listen"),  but it also insults the students intellegence, bores the shit
out of most of 'em, and wastes valuable class time.
Reading to students in class seems to be a very lazy solution to a complex
problem. I believe a dialog between students and teachers must take place
--- ask what, and more importantly how, the students want to learn.  It's a
good starting point.
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 13:16:33 -0400
From: Jennifer Wiley <wiley @ IWAYNET.NET>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
 As a current graduate student and recent undergraduate in a demanding
Honor's Program, I can related to the problem of having "too much reading."
However, now that I am a teaching assistant I can relate to the frustrations
of professors with students who do not perform at the college level.
As an undergraduate, I worked between 35 and 45 hours a week at a grocery
store.  I did not do this to pay for spring break or pay for a sports car, I
did this to pay for school and a place to live. I was not alone in this,
although many of my professors made it clear that they assumed "mom and dad"
were paying for everyone, which was the case in only a minority. I am a
traditional student, I graduated from college when I was 20.  As a graduate
student I am on a stipend where I work for no more than 20 hours a week.
This is a massive relief since I have never worked so few hours (and for an
employer who was required to work around my classes).
There is a definate difference between "dumbing down" and recognizing the
needs of the student.  For example, many professors require group
assignments, which require several students to coordinate plans, or they
require outside attendance of campus events.  While these things are
important to the learning experience (most learning occurs outside of the
classroom) it is equally important to recognize that not all students are
going to be able to work around these assignments.  This is a very different
issue from "dumbing down".   It is not a question of skill or ability, but
of priority.  Do I pay the rent this month or not?
Jennifer Wiley
Ohio State University
wiley  @  iwaynet.net
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 19:26:43 -0400
From: the Cheshire Cat <alanacat @ WAM.UMD.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
SOmeone suggested that those who have more than the usual number of
responsibilities ought to go to school part-time rather than to try to
have the schools accomodate. To this, I would like to point out that 1.
Many scholarships and other funding (like loans, even!) are tied to the
number of credits one is taking, and 2. That if women are unable to deal
with the amount of work because of children and child-care problems, since
it is, in fact, mainly women who have to deal with these type of problems,
in forcing them to go part-time, we are causing them  to take longer to
get out of school, which makes them less competitive in the long run
(especially in   math and science fields, where it is already harder for
women to get hired).
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 11:09:26 -0500
From: Kathleen E Green <kgreen @ CSD.UWM.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching students with too much to read
I tend to agree with those who express concern about a "dumbing down" of
US educational institutions, and would like to suggest further that it
might be useful to compare women's studies reading requirements across
national and disciplinary boundaries.
I am very interested to hear what those non-US list members have to say
about this thread.  A few years ago, I had the opportunity to compare my
undergrad reading requirements in English literature at Ohio State
University (1 novel a week was standard) with those of friends in Kings
College, Cambridge, UK; I was astounded to find that I regularly had much
heavier reading loads than those students, who were nevertheless
considered much better educated and who tended to have a more highly
developed sense of their relationship to the discipline because of the
early tracking system of the UK.  I would like to hear from those who
teach at public and private colleges and universities around the world to
find out what types of comparisons can be made (beyond the sheer
anecdotal, as I've related).
Also, it seems that most of the respondants to this thread are mostly
people who teach literature and, to a lesser extent, social sciences.  I
would like to hear from others as well.
I teach English composition and American literature and culture, and my
students are often quite blatant in expressing their belief that science
and math deserve more of their time (and this is true even if they aren't
science or math majors).  Once I even had a student ask me to postpone a
paper deadline because many of the students had a Chemistry exam the same
day.  When I jokingly suggested to her that she ask the Chemistry teacher
to change the test, she got the point.  I'm NOT trying to raise a
disciplinary battle here, but rather to show that it is going on for our
students.  While I agree that we need to be concerned about assigning
useful and realistic reading assignments, I also think that it's important
to situate this debate within the wider university context.  Those courses
deemed "softer"--which almost always includes women's studies
courses--often end up getting further marginalized when students and
administrators have to make decisions about priorities.  And, as many have
already pointed out, it would be strategically a very bad move for women's
studies teachers to participate in this marginalization.
Kathy Green
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
kgreen  @  csd.uwm.edu

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