Column: Summer Cram Session
Summer A ends this Friday, and for anyone who has taken classes during this six-week period, perhaps the first question on their minds is, “huh”?
Summer courses are a benefit to many students and a necessity at USF, where you must complete nine summer credit hours before you can graduate. But are the courses really beneficial in an educational sense? I say no.
This is my second summer taking classes, and I have to say that in both cases, my summer classes have not prepared me for the coursework that comes later. I don’t think it is realistic to consider that a normal 14-week course can be truncated into a six-week course and effectively teach students everything they need to know. There is no way I can learn all about American literature between 1914 and 1945 in six weeks and have a comprehensive understanding of the effect this time period had on literature in general. And there is no way I can learn the art of technical writing and be ready for advanced technical writing in the fall after only six weeks of lessons. It seems unreasonable to put such expectations on students and be surprised when they try to catch up in the fall.
Another example is the cramming of a Gordon Rule course into a four-week period, with all the trimmings, which can include several papers, a 10-page term paper, quizzes and tests. Six thousand words in four weeks. That’s 1,500 words a week, which is 300 words a day (excluding weekends), compared to 420 words a week or 84 words a day during the regular semester. Call me crazy, but the latter seems much more manageable.
Summer course requirements are nothing more than that – requirements. Wouldn’t students benefit more in their career choices and their futures by using the summer to earn money, get an internship, or maybe, take a break? Imagine that.
I’m not denying that for some students, summer classes make the difference between graduating and waiting another whole semester. But even so, are the classes preparing these students for their future jobs? Maybe in education, cramming classes into a convenient time period is doing more of a disservice to students than the other way around.
Summer classes also tax professors who must arbitrarily decide what material can be cut and still maintain the integrity of the class. College courses are already taught at the discretion of the professor, but imagine a professor who decides to cut a certain author from a literature class, and then in the student’s next literature class, that is one of the prime authors the student should know? Talk about playing catch-up.
However, some professors take it to the other extreme, intent on cramming papers, presentations and speeches into six weeks. There has to be a balance, somewhere in the middle, for the student. There is such a thing as stress, even during the summer.
College is tough enough without worrying if you’ve learned everything you need to know in a six-week course that should really take double that amount of time. Maybe in the future, students will have the ability to write essays in the fall called “What I did on my summer vacation,” and the words school and class won’t be anywhere around.