Thursday, December 10, 2009

Writing Seminar Reviews

Image courtesy of

Ah, the writing seminar – a staple of the Princeton curriculum that every student must endure. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re a good or bad writer – chance are, you’ll struggle. On more than one occasion, my roommate has stated that he will “stand up in the middle of class, walk over to --------, and punch him in the face,” gaining the applause and undying gratitude of everyone in the class. How much vitriol and bitter resentment it can stir within the freshman class! To prove my point, I’ve included a few gems from the Student Course Guide, where students can vent about the injustice they’ve suffered over the past few months. To provide a modicum of decorum, professors’ names have been eliminated, but are easily findable should you wish to learn the names of those who cause so much suffering. Enjoy:

“I don't even know where to start. Throughout the term, I would say as much class time was spent in awkward silence, the students looking around at each other, as it was spent doing anything productive. -------- managed to take some fascinating subject material and just butcher it in general by avoiding any substance within the text and instead trying to focus on some imaginary goal he had for his course. I never found out what this goal was, and I don't think even ------- knew where he was going with it. His outline, seemingly organized, was thrown out the window virtually after the first week as any semblance of unity within the course disintegrated into a thousand screaming hellions of bullshit […] I suspect he purposefully doesn't give honest feedback during draft meetings so he can ruthlessly mark you down on the final draft, gleefully chuckling as he scribbles his graffiti corrections on what a student thought was a genuinely good paper.”

“Don't be surprised when you don't learn anything about writing, as grammar and conceptual ideas are not discussed in class. You will not become a better writer, and furthermore, will not even learn interesting material in this class. Complete and utter waste of your time.”

“Most of the general horribleness comes from the Professor, who lets the class dissolve into blatant awkward silence for minutes and minutes on end. His grading is absurdly without any hint of basis, handing out generally whatever he seems to please to whomever he has taken a fancy to. His advice always comes too late, usually after he has handed you a poor grade, and the ‘draft meetings’ are the most useless garbage I have ever attended.”

And finally, this peculiar tidbit:

“A number of people in the class wrote papers with theses like ‘black people are inherently inferior swimmers’ (because there's tons of citable bull shit for this claim) […] Don't waste the effort on honest writing for this course. You won't be rewarded, and you won't really learn anything. Any kind of writing is always good practice, but this kind of argument can defend almost any kind of waste of time.”

My favorite fact? The first three all come from the same class. Looks like someone left a bad impression on his students…