Common reading essay is merely busy work

I can appreciate the effort and the idea behind it, but in the end, the common reading essay assignment given to freshmen by their colloquium professors was merely busy work.

The Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement is a wonderful idea and it meshes perfectly with the philosophies of interconnectedness behind a liberal arts education.

I am not critiquing it.

However, I do believe that with a theme of such importance like “Legacies of War,” student engagement with PLACE should have been more meaningful than an off-handedly written essay.

The idea behind the essay was to relate the book the freshmen class read during the summer, “Thieves of Baghdad” by Mathew Bogdanos to our Linfield curriculum or “LCs.”

My colloquium professor asked for a minimum of two LCs relations.

The idea behind the essay in and of itself is well thought out and of academic value.

However, in practice, the essay lost its value.

The common reading essay guidelines for most freshmen fell somewhere between a page and a half double-spaced and an 800 word maximum.

Or in other words, the essay was very easy to sit down and just rattle off a page and a half and call it good.

Which is the case for myself along with most people that were required to write it.

There is both good and bad in that.

It is true that many freshmen are already experiencing a collegiate level workload.

With mounting daily obligations, it was quite nice to have low requirements for the essay that did not take long to write.

But what did freshman take away from the essay?

By accommodating freshmen schedules to the extent that it did, the common reading essay was stripped of any real need for in depth evaluation.

Merely keystrokes, not engaged assessments.

Even if the idea behind the common reading essay was of academic value, I do not believe that the worthiness of the idea transferred to the assignment and there is no reason to assign busy work.

So scrap the assignment and keep the idea.

Perhaps a worksheet to be done in class where students must relate “Thieves of Baghdad” to every LC in a few sentences would preserve the idea and engage students more.

To be graded, of course.

I believe that almost any in class assignment, for this particular case would have been more prudent.

Students tend to stay more focused under the eyes of their professors and particularly their peers, if there are competing ideas.

Based upon my experience with “Thieves of Baghdad” over the summer and colloquium over the last several weeks, I would have preferred to discuss the book as a class and then have a follow up worksheet where I could express my own ideas for my professor.

Ryan Morgan / Senior reporter

Ryan Morgan can be reached at