The Tattooed History Professor, Kevin Gannon, wants to ban the research paper. No! Say it is not true! Everyone knows that research papers are the only way students learn how to think in a sound reasoning fashion.
He says this is the case because some students can’t do it. They write tendentious introductions, to start with. Some of the papers his students hand in are well-done he writes, but it seems too many of the papers he grades
….begin with “since the dawn of time, man has engaged in conflict, and nowhere was this more true than in the Spanish-American War.” Some of them show wide research, and some don’t. Some of them are well written, and some are a word salad of colloquialisms and faux-scholarly terms lifted willy-nilly from thesaurus.com.
He proposes WordPress websites, oral exams, and poster sessions and other things in their place, particularly for younger students.
In part I agree with Kevin. But in part I also think that this is a cop-out to the forces at public universities which send faculty larger class sizes which mean that students will indeed write less simply because there was no one to respond to their writing. This of course started earlier in high school. Getting students to write well is a years long process which begins during primary and secondary schooling, not when they pop full-blown into a university class in history, sociology, English, anthropology or anything else.
The only way to get students to write and reason well is to respond to them when they write those tendentious introductions—and this requires educated eyes on their papers beginning at an early age.
Educated eyes are of course expensive, and the truth of the matter is that in the United States such instruction is primarily reserved for those who will pay for it through systems of private schooling where class sizes are kept under control. What does keeping class size under control mean at the college level? Basically maximum 20 students per class–that’s what the private liberal arts colleges do in their writing classes. In fact, that is what I had in my 1970s era writing classes at the University of California.