New Rules

I’m thinking of adding rules and a FAQ to my syllabi. Thoughts?
  1. Read More. Write More. Think More. Be More.
  2. Do the homework and come to class. [Woody Allen has said that “80 percent of success is showing up.” But be sure to show up for your homework, too; there will be approximately two hours of homework for every hour of class, i.e. five hours of homework a week. Plan for that.]
  3. Stay in contact. Visit Dr. Miller during his office hours. Use email and the phone number. [“If you come to my office hours, then I will help you.” “If you call me after nine pm, then I’ll be tired and irritable.”]
  4. Always Ask a Question. [Take responsibility for your education. “Fake it until you make it.” We’re not on television, and education is not a passive enterprise.]
  5. Try to Ask the Right Question. [Think: “Why? What’s the REASON?” “How do we know? What’s the PROCESS?” “Where do I fit in? What’s my ROLE?”]
  6. Think Schematically. [Clichés and snowclones: “X is the new black.” “I X, therefore I am.” “This is your brain on X.” “If X, then Y.”]
  7. Think Conditionally. [Hypothetical: “If pigs could fly, then the pigsty would need a roof.” “If I had a million dollars, then….”]
  8. Beware of Assumptions. [Know What You Know. Try to know what you Don’t Know. Worry about what you Don’t Know you Don’t Know.]
  9. Think about Alternatives. [Always look for alternative explanations and reasons.]
  10. Practice charitable interpretation. [Give yourself, your fellow students, and the texts we read the benefit of the doubt.]

Thank you for arguing!

4 thoughts on “New Rules”

  1. This is a great list, Josh. I've been thinking that I need to prune my own list and I like the simplicity of yours. What do you do about the *other* rules (plagiarism, cell phones, late work, etc.), though?

    1. Thanks Leigh. This list is meant to be more… inspirational? Hell, you inspired it! The attendance and office hours stuff is hortatory rather than punitive: I want to change attitudes a bit at the beginning.

      The big issue you mention, plagiarism, is in the syllabus under several different headings, and I address late work separately under each assignment, as there are different policies for weekly stuff versus semester papers. But my policy is basically: if you plagiarize, you must rewrite it or get an F. SafeAssign makes this easy to fix. (Cue our old discussions.) If you're going to be late with a big paper, you must get in touch in advance or I take off 1/3 a letter grade a day.

      The "social policing" stuff isn't in the syllabus at all; I'm generally pretty lenient but I pipe up as needed. I only address stuff that's actively causing a problem and then not as a failure to follow a general rule but only with reference to the specific problem it's creating in that specific instance. So, I don't care if students eat in class, but if a student doesn't clean up after herself or someone is eating something that smells offensive, I'll bring it up.

  2. I like this list a lot. I was wondering how you deal with phones/tablets/laptops and texting, twittering, googling, facebooking and the like?

    1. I actually encourage tablets, because a lot of class stuff is distributed electronically, and don’t police social media. Cell phones I don’t like, but I’ll only call it out if I see it: texting is such an obvious set of bodily movements, that I can usually see and get distracted by it, but it’s not addressed explicitly in the written syllabi or rules.

      Part of the purpose of these rules is to get past the regulatory framework where it’s assumed that the syllabus is a contract that regulates classroom behavior. It helps that I don’t require attendance, so if someone is really checked out I can just suggest their time might be better spent elsewhere.

      Either you aspire to read more, write more, think more, and be more, or you don’t.

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