[Milton-L] Memorization

James Rovira jrovira at drew.edu
Tue Feb 24 09:54:13 EST 2004

I agree with Mr. Fleming here, but I think we need to take into account 
differences in student audiences as well.  I'm a community college 
graduate myself, and have taught at a community college, but have also 
taught at two different private universities (one with a pretty 
academically strong student body, and one with a not so strong student 
body).  All these schools were within about ten square miles of each 
other.  In my limited experience I've found real differences in student 
populations and how you need to handle them. 

The CC students tended to actually fight me more to get taught.  The 
best students by far were international students; I had one from 
Afghanistan and one from the Ukraine.  I had a Spanish speaking student 
who was a terrible, terrible writer with good ideas -- she really 
engaged the material as best she could with the resources at her 
disposal.  But most of the rest?  The Afghani student came up to me 
after class one day and said, "What's wrong with these people? They're 
stupid and boring.  They're afraid to say anything and show it."  Since 
I had the advantage of reading student papers I know his judgment was a 
bit harsh, but I understand how he formed this impression. 

The better students at the other University, well, that's another 
story.  They're by and large a Freaking Joy to teach.  There's always a 
student who's just filling a requirement and shooting for a C, or a 
student who has something of an adversarial attitude, but one or two 
students in a class of 15 is much different from something closer to 
half like this in a class of 25.  It's not just that they'll challenge 
me -- if this proceeded from questioning I'd appreciate it.  The 
challenges, though, proceed from what's fundamentally a nihilist 
attitude toward education: they're manipulating the system and, if 
possible, me.  To avoid this I write clear ground rules for the 
assignments then show them from their work they haven't fulfilled the 
requirements of the assignment.

Within this context, I can see either not wanting to assign memorization 
or feeling that you need to make some kind of appeal to force to get 
students to do it.  And if you're an adjunct dependent upon student 
reviews for your next semester's teaching assignments, well....


jfleming at sfu.ca wrote:

>I find the authoritarian tone of these remarks -- "busywork or else!" -- quite unfortunate and uncompelling. 
>J.D. Fleming
>On Mon, 23 Feb 2004 21:24:35 -0800 (PST) milton-l at koko.richmond.edu wrote:
>>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
>>A student's opinion:
>>The only thing more irritating than listening to fellow students whinging,
>>bitching and moaning about being asked to commit something to memory (or to
>>speak in front of the class) is instructors who decide to forgo these
>>simple exercises because the students "won't want to." :P It is a
>>tremendous disservice to allow students to dictate what should be expected
>>of them; they're in college to learn, and to learn what's good for them. If
>>you don't believe you are teaching them anything worth committing to
>>memory, please resign promptly. If you are a student of literature who
>>doesn't want to memorize what you're studying, then change your major to
>>something about which you care. Memorizing some Milton is GOOD FOR THEM!
>>It's good mental exercise and will enrich their minds and lives.
>>Junior college or not -- in fact, ESPECIALLY in jc ---> it will not kill
>>anyone to sit down and concentrate for a few minutes each night on
>>something of more worth than syndicated reruns and ludicrous "reality"
>>programming. "Gee! Wow! Not fourteen WHOLE lines" (That rhyme in most
>>cases, for John's sake). In the time spent complaining they could be
>>half-way through.
>>Students know all the words to pop songs, having poured over the liner
>>notes. They can recite sport statistics because sports are "important" to
>>them. They can recount gossip verbatim, even about "stars" they will NEVER
>>meet. They have the capacity. Don't let them fool you with their lack of
>>taste and judgement. A simple "Because I have decided it is part of your
>>grade," should be sufficient.
>>And stick to it. If you want to SEE some discipline, exhibit some
>>You're doing them a favor.
>>Even if they never thank you. Even if they never figure it out.
>>You would be, in effect, rewarding them for rewarding themselves. The first
>>One prof at my univ. requires students to memorize and perform lines from
>>Shakespeare. They begin with two lines and work their ways up to sixteen by
>>the end of the semester. This bring -he-frog-to-boil technique seems both
>>effective and not unpopular. Another asks us to choose our own fourteen
>>lines from PL. I only wish "the shy ones" weren't let off the hook and
>>allowed to recite privately during office hours, because it only reinforces
>>the notion that their "shyness" should be indulged, when in fact, they need
>>to get over it <-- but perhaps that's me going too far, as usual. And as
>>for grad students -- well -- they should be doing it without being asked.
>>Thank you for your time. Be Well.

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