A Disturbing Student Complaint

Historian James C. Cobb of the University of Georgia shares a disturbing student complaint over at Cliopatra:

After 34 years of college teaching, I thought I had heard just about every imaginable student complaint. Last week, however, a freshman in my 300-seat US History Since 1865 course came in to discuss her exam with one of the graders and proceeded to work herself into a semi-hissy over the fact that we had spent four class periods(one of them consisting of a visit from Taylor Branch) discussing the civil rights movement.

"I don’t know where he’s getting all of this," she complained,"we never discussed any of this in high school." One might have let the matter rest here as simply an example of a high school history teacher’s sins of omission being visited on the hapless old history prof. had the student not informed the TA in an indignant postcript, " I’m not a Democrat! I don’t think I should have to listen to this stuff!"

Given the current student and,in some places, administrative, pressures to put absolutely everything– notes, study guides, all potential exam questions and answers, etc.– on the Web, I can envision the day when the Web pages for our classes might read: " In order to insure that the professor’s lectures will not offend your political sensibilities or challenge any of your other beliefs and perceptions in any way, please indicate by clicking the appropriate box below whether you prefer the Republican or Democratic version of this course."

5 comments… add one
  • David Woodbury May 1, 2006 @ 23:51


    You’re right, that is disturbing. The student in question should be given an assignment involving summarizing one month of postings at crooksandliars.com.


  • Will Keene May 1, 2006 @ 17:33


    If you’d like, you can review a syllabus from Cobb’s Spring 2005 class at:

    Presumably his 2006 version was much the same.

  • Will Keene May 1, 2006 @ 17:25

    If she feels she shouldn’t “have to listen to this stuff” maybe she should consider other options than college, since knowledge doesnt seem to be to her taste.

  • Kevin Levin May 1, 2006 @ 15:16

    Hi Chris, — At least from the content of the post this student seemed to be frustrated with having to learn about Civil Rights and not simply about the amount of time spent. We all make choices in our survey courses. I for example make it a point to spend a great deal of time on the history of race as I believe it is the most important theme in American history. I spend two weeks on Civil Rights issues starting with WWII and through the 1970’s. It is by far the most important grass roots movement in American history after the Revolution. That’s just my opinion.

  • Chris May 1, 2006 @ 15:10

    First let me say that this student is only showing her ignorance with such a comment. However, does it seem like a bit much to spend essentially 2 weeks on the Civil Rights movement? I have never taught history, but have taken many a course. But when you have so much to cover in such a short period of timeā€¦ There also might be context here we do not know, for example, if 4 class periods (remember, it’s m-w-f or t-th) is what Mr. Cobb spent on the CRM, how much time did he spend on Reconstruction? Industrialization? WWI? WWII? Cold War? Perhaps this student simply and poorly expressed her frustration. Did he gloss over WWII with one class period? I’ve seen it done. Anyway, in no way do I agree with his student, but there are potential aspects to this we do not know. C

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