Purposes, Expectations, and Priorities at Wooster

You may be aware that some faculty on campus have become concerned that there is ambiguity among some students and faculty about expectations and priorities in the campus community. The faculty member in this class shares these concerns and wants to be explicit about what you can expect in this course and what is expected of you. The following is excerpted from a larger document which was written by a number of Wooster faculty in order to clarify our understanding of academic life at the College. The excerpts are those that relate most specifically to this course, but if you would like to read the larger document, please ask and I will supply you with a copy of it.

For the College of Wooster to carry out "its primary educational goal [of] the educational fulfillment of the individual" (Catalogue) we believe that Wooster students and faculty need to enter into a compact to pursue cognitive and curricular goals, to which other college activities are subordinate. We assume, therefore, that students enter the College with the primary goal of intellectual achievement, a desire that provides a challenge to faculty and students alike to enrich the learning experience.

To fulfill this compact, we believe certain conditions, goals and responsibilities must be met at Wooster. These goals include learning how to define problems, to conceptualize and analyze information, to challenge conventional wisdom, to make reasoned evaluations of multiple and conflicting ideas, to persuade and to be persuaded by others. In courses and independent study, all of us must be able to choose and ask questions, seek evidence, and express conclusions without risk of conscious restrictions being imposed on our aims, methods, and findings. Independence of mind and investigation is both a goal to be achieved and a condition required for generating new ideas to be tested by informed, judicious discourse in the community of student and faculty scholars that makes up the College.

Intellectual inquiry, expression, and achievement require a firm commitment to the responsibilities of scholarship from students, as well as faculty. Among the many possibilities, one stands out as crucial to learning: the responsibility to take an alert, active, and questioning role as you encounter ideas and methods. Passively reading or studying as you wait for ideas to be implanted in you without your participation is a refusal both of responsibility and knowledge.

We are not unmindful of the multitude of activities at the College and that participation in several of them may be necessary for keeping body, soul, and sanity together. We acknowledge that social, volunteer, or sports activities may be among the significant "reasons" that you selected Wooster. Our concern is that they not become purposes rather than pastimes and that you make your choices thoughtfully and with a sense of priority. What your priorities are, only you can and should decide, but your choices will have an impact on your academic performance and on your evaluation in this course. In this course, I assume that you have made intellectual inquiry an important priority or will do so as you begin the course.

The syllabus for the course expresses the specific expectations, requirements, and policies of the course. The main goal is to help you develop the analytical tools that will allow you to demonstrate a grasp of this complex body of knowledge and to use it with accuracy and effectiveness. Done properly, the amount of work on your part will be substantial and, I hope, rewarding. Prompt, thoughtful, and thorough preparation of every assignment is expected. This includes reading and thinking about assigned texts, the working out of relevant problems, and preparing (and asking as soon as possible) specific questions when things are not clear to you. Note that I do not expect you to have mastered all aspects of a topic prior to the day that it is discussed in class. Were that the case, the class session would be unnecessary. I do ask, however, that you reflect seriously about the material in advance and your presence in a class is your certification that you have done so. You may be asked to leave the room, if you cannot demonstrate such preparation.

You must decide for yourself how most effectively to study. It is highly unlikely, however, that you will do well in this course without regular class attendance. This is not because class attendance is counted directly in your evaluation, but because, if you are not there, your understanding is likely to be reduced which will be reflected in your written work. It is also a good idea to get to know your fellow students in the class. A shared sense of learning often enhances your own individual efforts. If you expect to miss more than a class or two during the semester, you should discuss with the instructor whether this will prevent you from meeting course expectations. If so, wait and take the course at a time when you can do so more effectively.

The College requires that you be evaluated in this course by the awarding of a letter grade. In this course, grades are assigned according to the Catalogue definitions:

Final grades should not be a surprise to you. If you are uncertain of your level of performance, ask your instructor.