Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Real Syllabus

The Real Syllabus
HAM 100 s09

Professor: Dr. S. Chiltepin
Office Hours: Fictional
Phone Number: Ha! Go ahead! Leave a message!

Description: Some crap I cut and pasted from the catalog. Hasn't been accurate for at least the ten years I've been here. Every two or three years, someone revises it, sends it through governance, and then the revision gets passed and never, ever shows up in the catalog.

Books: The same textbook I've been using for a decade. New edition, though: they updated some pictures and changed all the page numbers, so you have to buy a brand new copy. Then, if you do buy it, you probably won't read it anyway.

Assignments: Two papers, which will cause me considerable pain to read and grade. I will offer to go over drafts, and the three of you who submit drafts will probably get A's, because I will literally revise the paper for you. The rest of you will write it the night before it's due. Or just not write them at all. You certainly will not do the reading or research required. At least one person out of all my classes will plagiarize; statistically speaking, closer to 1 1/2.  Do this early, so I can fail you and not have to grade your tests or other papers.  

Tests: Four of them, easy to grade and a pain in the ass to write. You will not study, then take them and complain about every nearly-right answer. I really just give them because I like using my red pen.

Classroom Activities: I will write some bullshit about discussion, which at the time of writing I heartily believe. But in reality, by week three I will just lecture nonstop because it will become clear that you have not read the assignment, or if you have read it you are stuck at an 8th grade reading level.

  • Do I really have to list that you shouldn't cut your toenails in class? Apparently, I really do.
  • The next person who texts in class will have their i-Phone kicked up their nose.
  • Please wear clothing, even if you regard yourself as "hot." I should not see any private hairy bits at all. I do not get paid enough for that.
  • I believe that your electronic music and video devices will steal my soul, so in honor of my primitive religion please don't bring them to class.
  • Don't sleep openly in class. It makes me jealous.
  • Pajamas are not clothes.
  • If you snap your fingers at me when I don't call on you, I will break off your thumbs and make you eat them.  
  • Other than thumbs, there will be no food or drink in class because you disgusting pigs can't apparently clean up after yourselves.
  • The only reason I ask for your theological and political opinions is to systematically attack them; that's called education, and if you don't like it, get out.
I have to put this in because apparently the whole fucking world has gone ape-shit and invaded the ivory tower. In the event of an emergency, we will be notified by honking loud sirens they just installed and test rather more frequently than is strictly necessary, as well as text messages, phone calls, and the sounds of screaming and wailing in the halls. We are instructed to lock the doors and stay away from windows. You will note that the door has no lock, and the entire west wall of the classroom is a window. In the event of a real emergency, I will probably freak out and maybe cry because I'm a professor not a goddamned Navy Seal.

Closing Words:
I've given up my entire life to this topic because I think it is the most fascinating thing in the world, and so full of sublime beauty that I can easily spend hours researching and writing on it and not even notice that time has passed. I also like young people for their passion, creativity, and ingenuity. So when you sit there, dull and bored and boring, and you roll your eyes at this thing that I love . . . It tends to make me a grumpy professor.   And yet, a few of you will get it.  You won't do as I've done and become professors of this subject (God forbid!) but you will get that learning is enjoyable and interesting and worth doing.  I get maybe three to five of you a year, and you few, you happy few, make up for all the rest.  


  1. The last paragraph made me tear up (seriously)

  2. "The only reason I ask for your theological and political opinions is to systematically attack them; that's called education, and if you don't like it, get out."

    You sound just like Karl Popper, whose students called his class "the open society by one of its enemies."

  3. Love it.

    To get them to read, you might require a paragraph response paper each week for bull shit points. The illusion of points usually gets them to do the reading.

    1. But then I'd have to *read* those. The irony is delicious, but I have enough reading to do.

  4. I find that adding, "Keep your fucking shoes on in class." cuts down on toenail clipping.

    Which reminds me of an amusing story. I had a student give a presentation in class barefoot.

    The result:
    "Why did you take points off of my presentation?"
    "Because you gave it barefoot."
    "I don't understand why that's a problem."
    "Here's a question for you. Can you get a sandwich from Jimmy Johns without wearing shoes?"
    "Well it's the same in my classroom. No shirt, no shoes, no fucking A."

  5. You have so hit the nail on the head, Chiltepin! This is what I have always wanted to write when I do my syllabi! I have not laughed so hard in days, thank you for that! And yes, the last paragraph had me nodding along in full sympathy. Without those few, those sadly small few, this profession would completely not be worth it.

  6. Crap that was funny. I'm sitting here writing another syllabus with three pages of "required by the department" bull crap. One term I handed out a syllabus and told the class I was not going over it with them, but if they could not read then they were in the wrong class. Several dropped.

  7. I'm up to about eight pages of ten-point, Times New Roman font.

    Now they tell me they don't read it 'cause it's too long.

  8. Brilliant. Especially this gem:

    "In the event of a real emergency, I will probably freak out and maybe cry because I'm a professor not a goddamned Navy Seal."

  9. Regardless of the syllabus depth, take heed from one of last term's students who commented at the end of the semester that it actually was a good class and too bad so many had dropped the first week, so maybe I shouldn't use so many big words the first few sessions...I are sticking with that gud advice...

  10. Brilliant, indeed. And I, too, enjoyed the Navy Seal comment. I think I can be relied upon not to do something downright disgraceful, like using a student as a human shield, in the event of an emergency, but, beyond that, I'm neither physically impressive nor particularly quick-thinking, especially about physical/spacial matters (one among many reasons that I'd never consider carrying a gun). I'd do my best to keep everyone safe and calm, but really, such a situation is a long way away from my areas of strength/expertise. Fortunately, such situations are also still very, very rare.


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