Required English Classes Are Turning Students Away From The Literary Conversation

Required English Classes Are Turning Students Away From The Literary Conversation

It's difficult to interact with a source in a research paper when the source and the literary work and everything in between make you feel like you have nothing valuable to add to the conversation.

As an English tutor, the phrase I hear most often, in relation to Shakespeare and Hemingway and literally every over-assigned author, is "I don't care." When you take away all the layers of "what does this quote imply?" and "what is the author attempting to say here?", you reveal the answer to the question "why is this important?". The answer, for most students, is that it's not, or that they don't know what is important and they don't know why this matters and why the hell do they have to care about Shakespeare anyway and I'm a nursing major, for god's sake.

These students are not stupid or "uncultured" or too incompetent to appreciate the beauty of iambic pentameter. They don't care because there's no reason for them to because they hate the subject and all the long, grueling work it takes to come up with a cohesive essay about something they have no opinion about. It's hard to craft an argumentative thesis without an actual opinion. It's hard to answer the question "so what?" in your conclusion if you don't know why your argument is important in the first place. All of the sources and readings that professors are assigning, dealing with deconstruction and gender performativity and every other literary theory concoction, aren't helping.

Reading Shakespeare is hard enough, and the picks of scholarly articles that make their way into required English classes aren't helping. Reading theory that you have no background or interest in is alienating and turns students off from comprehending their readings. Students can't answer the question "what was this article about?" because they don't know! And they shouldn't be expected to know. Who introduces Foucault and Butler in a 101 class?

We tell students that they should be "engaging with their sources" and "joining the literary conversation" but how can they when the literary canon is so set and when scholarly works make it even harder to feel like you know what you're talking about. It's difficult to interact with a source in a research paper when the source and the literary work and everything in between make you feel like you have nothing valuable to add to the conversation.

Students are overwhelmed and alienated from participating in the literary conversation because they feel like they don't belong in it. Who would ever want to put in the effort to be involved in a conversation they feel unwanted in?

Cover Image Credit: Augusta State PR / Flickr

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Every Time I See A College Tour Group Walk By I Just Want to Scream 'It's a TRAAAPP!'

The tour guide is good - they're just a liar.

It's officially that time of year - anywhere you walk on campus, there's bound to be a gaggle of parents and befuddled high school students winding their way through building after building. In front of them stands an overenthusiastic tour guide, spouting off statistics about the school so fast they'll make your head spin.

Unfortunately, what the tour guide says doesn't exactly line up with what goes on at the school. Oh, the things we students wish we could shout out to the parents as they pass by.

1. "You'll get sick of the dining!"

It may look like there's something new to eat every single day, but by the end of the semester, you'll be sick of everything except the things closest at home.

2. "I'm only here for the free t-shirts!"


3. "IT'S A TRAP!"

Seriously, part two. You get two of three things: a social life, sleep, or good grades. Whoever said you could have all three is lying.

4. "Welcome to the real world, suckers!"

It's got confrontation, taking care of yourself, and formal emails. (Which, of course, your professor will respond with 'k thnx bai' sent from their iPhone.)

5. "Say goodbye to sleep!"

There are three types of people on campus: tea drinkers, coffee drinkers, and people with energy drinks running through their veins.


Check all of your housing options before you move in. The dorm they're showing you might be the worst housing area on campus.


You're getting squat. Free tuition? Try the tune of $13k a year. Or more. Depending.

8. "The library is NOT the best study place."

Depending on your major, there are several places for you to study that aren't the library.

9. "The health center sucks!"

True fact: word through the grapevine is that someone once got antibiotics for a sprained ankle.You may as well sell that leg on the black market to cover the costs.

10. "Believe the roommate horror stories!"

All random roommates are horrible unless proven otherwise. (But be wary of everyone.)

11. "SI (student instructor) sessions are useless."

You will learn nothing . Chances are you'll end up correcting the instructor.

12. "The freshman fifteen is optional."

Some people don't gain it at all, and some people really gain it. It's up to you.

13. "You'll need a car!!"

If, for some reason you can't pay for the overpriced parking pass, find a friend who can.

14. "Hookup culture is real!"

But it's not for everyone. Just because everyone is doing it doesn't mean you have to.

15. "Campus jobs are a myth!"

Campus job? What's a campus job? Do you have work-study? No? No job for you. Have you tried the local coffee shop?

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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