This story confirms what all academics already knew. It’s particularly difficult in the humanities, and acute in my area, English Literature. I recently marked a series of essays on Jane Eyre by first year undergraduates. Hardly any of them bothered to consult any of the numerous secondary critical materials they could have accessed, relying instead on no secondary reading at all, or web sources ranging from the relatively advanced Spark Notes to the thoroughly disreputable essay mills. A couple were obviously plagiarised.
Students constantly complain about not having the time to read, and yet they have signed up as full timers – pursuing their studies should be their primary occupation. Too often, though, it isn’t. One student I spoke to recently said she was having difficulty completing work because of her outside job commitment. This turned out to be a 35 hour a week post on a telephone help desk. She seemed genuinely surprised when I said that I didn’t think she could do that and a full time degree. She’s not alone, and the consequences of this now well-established culture of semi-detached study is that students are increasingly unlikely to show any genuine intellectual curiosity. That in turn leads to the kind of instrumental view of education as a simple transference of knowledge from tutor to student, preferably bypassing the student’s brain.
I don’t know the answer to this conundrum. The increasingly consumerist view of education espoused not just by students but by government, actively discourages the kind of adventurous thinking that higher education is supposed to be about.
Students don’t read… by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.