[Milton-L] Re: Memorization and K. Jackson

Harper, D. CPT ENG David.Harper at usma.edu
Wed Feb 25 11:51:25 EST 2004

Professor Fleming,

I certainly didn't (mean to) say students "who can't write an essay" can
make up marks. These assignments are not bonus assignments, nor are they
"make up" assignments, but instead they are valid pedagogical tools. If
my students can't write essays, they fail the essay and (if they can't
rise to the standard) the course. I have a sneaking suspicion (based
upon my own undergraduate and graduate experience) that in many
institutions students pass as long as they "do the work." 

I guess I have to point out the obvious: the flip-side of the recitation
business is that students who write well might lose marks if they recite
poorly - is that expecting more then? Expecting too much, perhaps?
Please don't accuse me of coddling students. You've no idea how silly
that sounds given my students, my classes, and my institution. 

If you don't see the value in recitation after all the posts patiently
explaining it, fine.  "Busy work" is work assigned simply to keep
students occupied, work without a valid teaching objective. If you call
recitation (not "memorization," which implies rote recall instead of
interpretation and performance)"busy work," you might as well call an
essay such, or the group work you assign.  I suppose you don't advocate
your students attend poetry readings so that they can hear the living
language and better understand the author's own interpretation and tone?
When teaching drama, do you not have students try to stage and perform
it? Are these things "busy work"? If so, fine. I certainly won't be the
one to convince you.

I apologize to the list for falling into the oft-repeated and unseemly
trap of getting defensive about posts...


Captain David A. Harper
Assistant Professor, Department of English
United States Military Academy
(845) 938-2643

-----Original Message-----
From: jfleming at sfu.ca [mailto:jfleming at sfu.ca] 
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2004 10:42 AM
To: milton-l at koko.richmond.edu
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: Memorization and K. Jackson

Happily, on Ms Jackson's own theory -- which you approve at the
conclusion of yor post --  I really don't have to listen to her. After
all, she is a student, I a lofty Professor; and, as you put it, "it is
not good for students if we allow them to dictate what is expected of

In any case, I must say I find it an absolutely extraordinary suggestion
that having students memorizing poetry means _challenging_ them. The
whole reason I am against this practice (as I am against other forms of
busywork) is that it is too _easy_. I have not said one word about
coddling students -- but the practitioners of belles-lettres certainly
have. Giving students who can't write an essay an opportunity to make up
marks (per Captain Harper's post)? That's what I call expecting less and
getting it.

J.D. Fleming

On Tue, 24 Feb 2004 16:08:14 -0500 milton-l at koko.richmond.edu wrote:
> I didn't find Kathryn Jackson's observations authoritarian.  It's an 
> odd term to apply to a student's appeal for her teachers to expect
> more from their students and from themselves.	 I found Ms.
> Jackson's comments bracing.
> It is easier on us to expect less of students, but the results are 
> predictable.  Students in my experience rise (or sink) to 
> expectations.  It is good for us to be reminded of this, whatever we 
> think of the case at hand (for the record, I'm with those who see a 
> real and deep pedagogical value in memorization).
> Ms. Jackson hits the nail on the head when she argues that it is not 
> good for students if we allow them to dictate what is expected of 
> them.  If I did that, I might stop assigning them to write sonnets 
> that make sense, rhyme, and scan.  Invariably, students who react with

> fear and horror on first learning of the assignment are glad to have 
> been put through the exercise and recommend that I have future 
> students write sonnets as well.  Often, they suggest that I have 
> future students write more poetry in traditional forms.
> Steve Fallon
> >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:
> >>  --0-595580062-1077600275=:39278
> >>  Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> >>
> >>
> >  > A student's opinion:
> >>
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Dr. James Dougal Fleming,
Assistant Professor of English,
Simon Fraser University,
(604) 291-4713

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