It has come to my attention that some students don’t do all of their course readings. I don’t know what to say about this other than I’m completely taken aback by the concept. Luckily, (and the sarcasm stops here), we have Nancy Bunge to tell us how to work through this crisis of education. Make the texts harder!
A statistic is floating around that says that only 26 percent of students do their course readings and the basic argument that spawns from this is that we are living in a new age and today’s students don’t want to engage difficult texts when there are so many other shiny exciting ways to learn. With tools like Google and streaming media and all that jazz, who wants to curl up in a corner and read?
Nancy says that’s all bologne and I have to say I agree with her.
Here are a few choice quotes from her blog:
“My classroom experiences suggest that blaming university students for this depressing development makes little sense — and not only because faculty members have the power to challenge students’ self-destructive behavior. I’ve discovered that a sizable number of my students enjoy engaging hard books. When I ask them why, they give the reasons that researchers are beginning to validate: Students believe that complex reading nourishes their brains, and they find the experience satisfying. Or, as one of my students put it, “The books were tough but made me think.”
“The students recognize the same thing as those who worry about the study by the National Endowment for the Arts documenting declining reading skills. Despite their affection for visual media and technology, my students realize that if they do not grapple with difficult, abstract texts, they will miss an important dimension of human learning and thinking. As one student wrote: “I like a challenge when I am trying to learn. Putting in more effort yields better results.”"
It’s not the quantity of the books that we read (although the more the merrier), but the quality of the book and the voracity with which we engage it. Only 26% of students do their course readings because only 26% of readings are of the level that they require close reading to understand the point and talk about them intelligently in class or in an essay.
I’ve been in courses that fail to teach me much because the readings were too easy. And to be fair I’ve also been in a course that fell apart because the readings were very difficult. However, I feel that the course failed because the students were not prepped appropriately. They assumed that it was going to be just another course that they could do a little bit of the reading an hour before class and coast on through. But by the time the students realized that these texts required a special level of engagement they had either soured on the course or were unable to catch up.
Another piece of advice that I have is to avoid easing students into difficult texts by progressing from easy texts to hard ones. Slam us right away with the hard ones so we can get a handle on the it while we are still figuring out how much energy we need to put into each course. Then you can ease up and let us apply the concepts to some more readable texts.
The moral of the story is that most students want to read difficult texts that change the way they see the world. Just be sure to wake them up when you assign one.
Am I wrong? Comment and let me know!