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Read Your Damned Syllabus!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Author’s Note: Universities are supposed to prepare people to be productive citizens. They are failing miserably because they are failing to reward hard work and initiative. In fact, it is worse than that. They have actually started rewarding dependency in our government schools. At the beginning of every semester, I try to inform students that things will be very different in my class. This latest message, which I have written to my students and will send to them early next month when classes begin, is illustrative. If you are tired of our public schools and universities producing helpless, dependent children instead of productive citizens, please read this column. Consider forwarding it to every teacher you know. You may tell them they have permission to adapt it for their classes.


Welcome back to campus! I cannot believe it is already 2016. Before we get started this spring semester, I want to remind all of you to go potty before you come to class. I know that sounds like a strange request but there has been a recent outbreak of people getting up to go potty during my classes. In fact, it has been happening ever since I banned the use of cell phones. It is therefore reasonable to assume that when people get up to go potty in class they really aren’t going to the potty. They’re in the hall on the phone. So remember to shut off your phone and go potty before class begins. This is not a public high school.

Before the first class meeting make sure to find the class syllabus on the university website. Don’t email to ask me where the syllabus is located. It’s on our departmental webpage. Whatever you do don’t lose this email and then come up to me after class and say you can’t find the syllabus. If you do that I will hand you a box of tissues and a form that allows you to drop the class.

After you locate the syllabus, print it off and try not to lose it. While you’re at it I want you to actually read it because it’s really important. Let me elaborate with a little hypothetical: Imagine you’ve just accepted your first job after you graduate from college. After two weeks on the job you walk into your supervisor’s office and ask whether you have a health plan. After two months you walk back into his office and ask how much vacation time you have. There is one thing guaranteed to happen to you in such a scenario: You will get fired.


Trying to take a class without knowing the class requirements is every bit as self-destructive as trying to do a job without knowing the basic job requirements. This is important to know because people who have a grammar school mindset irritate their professors. Personally, I didn’t get a PhD to teach kindergarten. I did it because I wanted to debate serious ideas with serious people. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Therefore, for your own good as well as my personal sanity, here is what I plan to do about it:


The first time I send you such an email there will be a “minus” attached to your final grade. The second time there will be a letter grade reduction. The third time you will fail the class. If you write to complain about failing the class, I will personally write the chancellor and ask him to expel you. I might even write the government and petition for your deportation.

That policy is pretty harsh so please take the time to read these examples of things you can do to get a “Read Your Damned Syllabus” email:

*Asking me the name of the required book and where to find it. I list the full reference to the required books on the syllabus. I sometimes provide a hyperlink to Amazon in the course syllabus. I don’t know how much easier I can make this without actually buying the book for you. Last semester, a student asked me this question just one week before Thanksgiving. In other words, he had not yet purchased the required book three months into the semester. That kind of student doesn’t deserve to be in college. He deserves to be working at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I’m willing to help facilitate the transition.


*Asking me how many tests we have or what the test covers. If you are too lazy to read the syllabus you are probably too lazy to study. You are not likely to finish college. Therefore, this deduction should not be seen as an injustice. It’s just expediting the inevitable.

*Telling me you have to leave class early to go to the doctor (or tend to some other emergency). This class is not an open house. If you can’t join us for the full 75 minutes then just use one of your excused absences. That’s why you have them.

I could go on and on but I’ll spare you. Please understand that the reason I do this is to spare the larger society. For too long, teachers have been unleashing unprepared adolescents into the workplace. The public schools reward bad behavior, the universities fail to correct it, and it becomes the new norm in the larger society. I’ll have nothing to do with it. If you act like an adolescent in my class, I will do my part to see that you don’t carry those traits into the real world.

People may say that I’m a dreamer. And perhaps I’m the only one. But I wish my socialist colleagues would join me. Then the world really could live as one.

In other words, imagine all the people. Just reading their damned syllabus.

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