Menachem Mendel

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Students who are scared by syllabi

Almost everyone who has taught a course on a university-level has experienced the complaints of students after they see the syllabus and what you expect of them. Read what this lecturer wrote in their syllabus.

I recognize that I have assigned a lot of reading for a seminar. Before many of you go to the registrar about dropping out, let me explain.

My main purpose in preparing this packet was to present, in easy accessible form, a basic primer regarding both the themes that have dominated the race debate in this country, as well as some of the key cases and statutes that reflect this debate.

Some of you will already be familiar with the material; others will find the material new. As a result, I’ve made at least half of the material optional (indicated in the syllabus). Those with the time and inclination can read the entire packet, while those with tighter schedules or a strong background in civil rights law can confine themselves to the required reading.

One final note: you’ll see that much of the material has been marked up. I apologize for not giving you cleaner copies–it’s a consequence of not having a teaching assistant. (On the other hand, my wife tells me that she wouldn’t have minded getting the professor’s notations on her reading material when she was in law school.)

The teacher, Barack Obama. Read the whole article here.

4 Responses to “Students who are scared by syllabi”

  1. 1
    Gabriel Wasserman:


    The Latin “syllabus” is merely a transcription of the third-declension Greek noun “süllabos”, of which the plural would be “süllabontes”. Thus, the Latin plural would be “syllabontes”.

    If we’re not going to do a proper Latin plural, we shouldn’t be pseudo-fancy and write “syllabi”. Just write “syllabuses”.

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:

    I fell into the second-declension trap, but the OED also says that “syllabi” is acceptable, and the etymology which you brought is based on an incorrect reading. The original Greek, of which I know very little, is apparently sittyba/sittybas. See here.

  3. 3

    hey thanks for pointing to the syllabus – i had read the article but missed the side matter – the exams are great – obama is a natural teacher – a characteristic that has no bearing on his present aspirations but admirable anyway.

  4. 4
    neil fleischmann:

    It takes guts to distribute a marked up syllabus and then to say that it’s because you don’t have an asistant teacher.




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