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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Why do I Have to Work so Hard in your Class?": An Explanation for Undergraduates

This is the last in a series of blog posts addressing three common questions I receive from my undergraduate students:
  1. Why do I have to study anything outside of my major? (I address that question here)
  2. Why in particular do I have to study theology, especially since I'm not religiously affiliated? (I address this question here and here).
  3. Why do you make us work so hard for your class when it isn't my major?
I'll address the last question in this post.  And because my answer to this question is fairly straightforward, this will be my shortest post in the series.

While students generally enjoy the courses I teach, students (albeit a minority of them) consistently comment that I am too stringent in my grading of assignments and exams, and that I assign far too much reading and writing for a course that is outside their major.

The assumption underlying such comments is that courses in the discipline of theology are not as important or significant as courses in their major, and I've already addressed the problems inherent in such an assumption here.  I obviously take the discipline of theology seriously, and as such, I certainly think that students should actually have to do significant study in the discipline just as they do significant study in other disciplines.

To reduce the level of reading and writing in my classes, as well as to lessen my standards of evaluation of my students, would be tantamount to an admission that the discipline of theology is less important and less rigorous than other academic disciplines. Moreover, I don't believe that I benefit students by providing easy grades in my classes.  While all students may not be theology majors, I do believe that all students have the potential to think critically and study fervently, and that central to my job as their instructor is to challenge students continually to develop their capacities to think critically and clearly, even if about a subject in which they have little interest.

Anything less would, I think, disrespect both the discipline of theology as well as the students themselves.

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