Why do professors expect students to read textbooks?
The homework load in all courses is already ridiculous, especially when you’re near the finish line and find yourself in your final two or three semesters. I can’t speak for anyone else, obviously, but it’s nothing for me to spend four hours a night tackling the huge piles of assignments. The days I don’t have classes, I usually spend 6 to 8 hours at the University just doing homework. (I’m only exaggerating a small bit for effect. A very small bit.)
All this time spent doesn’t mean I’m a “keener” – sometimes I hand in sub-par assignments because I just got finished in time for the deadline. Most times, I hand in average assignments. You know, they’re done, but I don’t do a whole lot of extra work. I find that I just don’t have time to add a lot of frills.
Do I read anything my professors have written in the syllabus? Very rarely. The only time I make sure I read is when I have to give a presentation on it (a trick picked up by one of my professors when they realized that no one was doing the reading, I’m sure). Can I still keep up with the discussions? For the most part, I think I do a pretty good job.
Why don’t I do the readings? It’s actually pretty simple – I like to sleep at night.
For some people, sleep deprivation may not be a factor. Maybe some people can stay up until 2 a.m. to tackle four chapters of reading and still be bright-eyed and alert for 8:30 a.m. classes. I am not one of those people. I value my sleep, almost more than I value my education. Almost.
Probably over 50 per cent of students have jobs on top of their university careers. I know a lot of my friends go to class until 4 p.m., then work until 11, 12, or 1 a.m. Let’s be honest with ourselves here – who’s going to come home at that time and dive into a textbook? Most people are either going to go straight to bed, or do something they enjoy because their entire day has been taken up with responsible, “adult” activities.
Sometimes, I don’t do readings simply because they bore me out of my skull.
I actually enjoy reading. I enjoy most of my classes, usually. But in my four years at university, I have never once read a textbook that I found interesting. I find that my eyes glaze over by the third page, no matter what subject I’m trying to expand my knowledge on. This is probably because most textbooks are written in academia-type language that requires ridiculous amounts of energy to decode into layman terms. I don’t enjoy reading when I have to consult a dictionary to figure out the meaning of a sentence.
Lastly, I don’t see the point in reading something that I know very well will be covered in depth during the next class.
Every professor I’ve ever had claims that the textbook readings are supplementary to the lectures. But in at least 85 per cent of cases, they have taken class time to go over almost every aspect of the expected readings. Granted, sometimes it helps. If I read something I don’t understand, I appreciate when someone breaks it down for me. But if you’re going to break it down for me anyway, why do I have to become confused in the first place? It’s far easier to just wait until you explain what the textbook said.
So with all these factors stacked against the reading of textbooks, why do professors expect it?
I have no idea, and I’m not sitting here trying to figure it out. I’m going to bed, because sleep is better than knowledge. At least for tonight.