Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Root of the Problem: Bad Study Habits!

A student emailed me yesterday saying that, reading over the reports of the recent flap about Len Kaplan's legal process class, the first thing that struck him, with the wildly conflicting reports of what Len said, was "the absolute crappiness" of the notes that people must have been taking in that class. This I think was a very astute comment, pointing up an aspect of the case that had escaped everyone else's notice. It was even more astute than he could have realized. One of the two eye-witness student accounts of the now-notorious lecture casually mentions that no one in the class, a class of over twenty people, was taking any notes at all! If they all had been taking notes, this whole you-said-this, no-I-didn't controversy might never have happened. The cause of it all may have been, not so much racism, as what my highschool teachers used to call "bad study habits." If the people there could have consulted their notes, there may have been nothing to argue about.

The student account goes on to explain that the reason that no one was taking any notes was the "informal" nature of the class.

The first thing I want to say to this is: Huh?

I don't see how a class could be that informal. This was, after all, a class. In a university. It had no point other than to change your thinking (in a good way) in the future. This is something it can't do unless you can remember it. And you know that you will forget 99% of what is happening at any moment unless you record it somehow. So everybody was treating the class as if they would have no need to remember what happened there. And yet.... Sorry. Does not compute.

My students know that this is one of my pet peeves. Why is it that so many students do not take notes any longer? Has something happened to render such behavior rational? What on earth could it be? It isn't that people have discovered some new, better way of remembering things, other than writing them down. There isn't one. So what gives?
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