Man, I hate this time in the term. The. Worst.
My department requires all ENC1101 — basically freshman comp/term 1 — students to write an informative research paper. It used to represent intellectual inquiry around a topic that was interesting from an academic perspective. That was 10 years ago.
Now, it’s just the equivalent of a middle school book report.
I suppose it’s partially my fault since I’ve encouraged students to research on a topic they’d genuinely like to learn about and communicate to me. In other words, yes, they get to choose their own topics. Back when I’d started teaching for this school, it worked. Their topics were sophisticated, their writing was involving, and their information — for freshmen just learning how to sift through databases — was impressive.
Today, I want to set their topics on fire.
So few of them seem to have interests outside of anything at all. So few of them want to learn anything. So few of them are willing to put in any effort. Instead, it’s all about rote memorization for tests (“Are you going to give us a study guide for the final?” = “I just want the answers for the final exam and intend to forget everything for the next course.”) and whether or not their research topic has “a lot of information about it” (translation: “I think it’s going to be easy to write about it.”). Naturally, I have a list of forbidden topics, ones they cannot write about, topics that every person with half a brain knows are overdone and often based on emotion rather than evidence. Every term, however, that list grows longer.
I fear I’m at a point where I will actually have to assign everyone the same damned topic because there’s only so much I can take when offered the following as “topics”:
- Sleep disorders
- Hitler and genocide
- ADD or ADHD
- The Holocaust
- Living a healthy life
- Was Hitler a fascist?
- Social media
- The death of Hitler
- Cosmetic surgery
- Hitler was definitely a bully
- Teens and drinking
- Texting and driving
- Hitler is responsible for all the problems in the world, including texting and driving.