Academia needs a lesson in simplicity

I’m sick of wasting my time reading the same paragraph

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A bookshelf filled with academic books
PHOTO: Iñaki del Olmo / Unsplash

By: Hailey Miller, Staff Writer

We’ve all tried to read a paragraph in a text, only to go back and reread it, with no greater success in absorbing the information. Why is academia so convoluted? It doesn’t need to be this way. It makes important information inaccessible to both the public and the students trying to learn this material. Some professors assign so many in-depth required readings each week that students can’t keep up and they fall behind trying to understand the material.

The margin between what’s conveyed in a paper versus what’s thoroughly comprehended is a vast one. Half the time students pretend to understand, when in reality, we do the minimum to grasp a surface understanding after toiling over it for hours. It seems professors and scholarly authors alike would rather students sift over every content-filled, obscure nuance with a fine-tooth comb, expecting us to become experts in each assigned reading. Most of us have other commitments outside of school, too, including work, appointments, and family to take care of. I don’t have time to dissect every reading assigned to me. If you’re an academic, you should be able to get your point across in a way that’s digestible.

There’s really no benefit to reading a detailed scholarly article when you’re spending more time with a dictionary than actually reading the piece. Most of the time, these ideas would benefit from less complex words, and more straightforward ideas. Sometimes highly-specific jargon is needed, but academia could also do with cutting down on these papers.

Sometimes we go to class just to have a quick, summarized discussion on the material in question, so why did we even bother reading such a content-heavy piece in the first place? Some things in these readings are never even mentioned again. It would be helpful for students if professors prioritized the important content they want us to learn, rather than stuffing every possible idea into a week. Instructors need to give more time to students for difficult readings, and ensure everyone truly understands the material at hand before moving on. 

While I’m used to the heavy depths of reading scholarly articles and literary journals, I’m also over it by now. Readings can be quite gruelling when you’re completely lost in the countless pages of a dense paper that becomes more monotonous the longer you read it. University instructors should have a responsibility to make their courses accessible, rather than relying on students to have perfect comprehension skills.

We’d all save so much time if we didn’t have to dissect every ambiguous meaning behind the words in academic writing. Professors need to set more manageable schedules and rethink some of their unrealistic expectations regarding course load and curricula, while effectively communicating with students. So, here’s a lesson to be learned: academia is long overdue a crash course in concision. 

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