failIn one of my classes, our syllabus proclaims that the correct heading must be name, date, and course section number, and threatens that students will receive an AUTOMATIC ZERO if the course section number is above the date. This isn’t the only formatting mistake for which we’ll AUTOMATICALLY FAIL (and paper formatting mistakes are not the only student errors that will cause immediate failure), which leads me to so many questions. After 6+ years in the classroom, I’m really curious why an educator would open a course, and the student-teacher relationship, with the fairly minor formatting mistakes that will result in insta-fail. Of course, in this class I’m a student, so I’m guessing that my opinions on the syllabus aren’t terribly relevant.

When I encountered this kind of syllabus as an undergrad, I believed that the importance of carefully formatting papers according to the professor’s style was preparation for the Real World and a Professional Career. Maybe in the Real World, formatting will be super important to, uh, something? Maybe this is a test to see if I’ve read the syllabus? Maybe it’s a test to see if I can follow directions? Er, I mean, a test to see if I can follow these particular directions, not just the directions about which book to read and when to turn in essays, because in way the entire class is a test of direction-following ability.  Maybe our papers are going to be graded by robot? In which case, I for one, welcome our new robotic overlords with open arms.

But now I think the real takeaway is to accept that sometimes you have to do fairly pointless things in order to reach a goal.

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