26 August 2015—Attendance Policy: Autumn 2015
26 August 2014—China's Lunar Calendar 2014 08-26
26 August 2014—Attendance Policy: Autumn 2014
26 August 2013—China's Lunar Calendar 2013 08-26
26 August 2013—Syllabic Cycles: Chinese History and Culture (a)
26 August 2012—The New Yorker and the World: Course Description (e)
26 August 2011—Annals of Ostracism: Alone in the Arctic
|[a] Standing at attendance RF|
and Computer Use Policy
A specter is haunting Beloit College—the specter of missed classes, half-empty classrooms, and disjointed learning. I have tolerated these patterns of vacuity in the past, but it has reached a point in which missed classes affect both the students who are absent and more punctual class members (who have to hear explanations for material and key points more than once). It also detracts from the pedagogical goals of not only our little course of study, but liberal education in general.
From here on, attendance is required.
That means required.
|[b] Late RF|
I expect regular attendance and participation in class, and anything short of that will result in significant penalties. I will take attendance during every class session, and students will be expected to be on time and respectful of the length of breaks. While this may seem draconian, it is simply meant as a way to create a positive learning environment.
You are expected to attend every class session during the term. Period. This is not a policy that “allows” one or two (or three) “misses.” Short of significant illness, or a major—catastrophic—event, you must be in class.
Class will begin promptly at the top of the hour,* and there will be a short quiz at that time. All quizzes will be collected fifteen minutes later. Be in class on time and use your fifteen minutes for the quiz.
*At the "quarter hour" for the Confucius seminar.
Please note (the following information is new):
Class attendance and participation is expected.
More than two missed classes will result in the loss of a letter grade for the course.
Five or more missed classes will result in an F grade for the course.
Occasionally, it will happen that you are not able to be in class, no matter what. These occasions should be rare, occurring for most students once or twice every third semester, and only a handful of times during an entire college education (I am not kidding).
|[c] Portal RF|
When absences do happen, send me an e-mail message letting me know. Please note the wording. Do not ask me for “permission.” Do not plead for “leniency.” I prefer to deal with these matters the way members of any civil society would—with a sense of decorum and mutual respect. That is ultimately how I will evaluate your attendance. It is really quite simple to tell the difference between not being able to pry oneself away from Madden NFL 25® (or searching for Pokémon) and experiencing an illness or loss. Don’t be too “personal” in your e-mail messages. I don’t want to pry, and I don’t need explanations (or, worse yet, excuses). Just let me know the situation and move on.
By “participation,” I mean being fully engaged in the lecture or discussion. This may or may not include active voicing of opinions or interpretations. In short, I do not belong to the school of thought that equates “talking” with participation and “silence” with lack of engagement. It is easy enough, after twenty years of teaching, to see the exceptions. What I seek is solid preparation, engagement with the subject under discussion, and (eventually) evidence in your writing that these things have come together.
I expect you to listen to my (and your peers’) comments, and to add your interpretations whenever you feel compelled to do so. The best advice is for students to push their “comfort zones” a little. If you are inclined to speak often, pull back (a little) and listen. If you rarely speak, push yourself to do so.
|[d] Gathering RF|
You need to have the required books with you for class discussion. In cases for which reserve materials have been necessary, you need at least a series of notes to which you can refer during our discussions. Reading books on reserve (or leaving it to the last minute) is never a valid reason for being unprepared.
Calling on PeopleAfter an initial “getting acquainted” process, I will start calling on people. This will never be punitive, and will only occasionally create (unwittingly) the kind of “I-don’t-know/deer-in-the-headlights” situation that makes everyone uncomfortable…for about ten seconds. I plan to get people talking about the materials with a minimum of fuss and worry—and will explain the process once the course gets underway.
The most important part of the “participation” expectation is note-taking. I want you to explore various note-taking skills as part of your expanding liberal arts education. You will more than occasionally hear me say “write that down.” That is for emphasis. I expect all students to develop note-taking strategies so that they have useful materials for further analysis when writing papers or studying for exams.
Laptops and Classroom Computers
There will be no use of laptop or classroom computers during class time (or tablets or phones). I realize that taking notes on computers can be a useful practice, but I would like to emphasize a number of other note-taking strategies in our class. Part of a liberal education lies in pushing one’s boundaries. Experiment with various note-taking strategies. The only possible exception to this policy will be for clearly stated (mostly medical) needs.
Keep your laptop (and tablet and phone) in your bag during class.
|[e] Connected RF|
You may do a quick check of e-mail and social media during break if you wish, but you must complete your work before class resumes (with time to spare).
Occasionally during class something will come up that might benefit from a quick on-line search. In those cases (these seem to occur a handful of times during the term), I may give permission for people to do a quick in-class check. Such times are the exception, not the rule. For the most part, we will be engaged in a distant intellectual world of books and paper. It will be a healthy contrast to our “connected” worlds.
I shouldn’t even have to say it, but turn off your phones…and everything else.
I fully realize that this is a great deal of legalistic material to handle at once. A single, sensible thread runs through all of it, though—a learning community that is engaged in examining old questions and pondering the new. Or, as Confucius was said to have said:
|[f] Teaching RF|