Katie Roiphe’s essay about the late David Foster Wallace’s syllabuses at Slate fascinates me on two levels. First, that in this digital age, with one click of the button I can access the syllabus of a professor (for a class I never took at a college I never attended). Secondly, the content of the documents themselves are eye-opening, for the assertive way (noted by Roiphe) that Wallace addresses his students. Consider this excerpt:
Students of course love teachers who step out of the formality of academic life, who comment on it, but very few do so as more than theater. Very few commit to it the way David Foster Wallace commits to it. “This does not mean we have to sit around smiling sweetly at one another for three hours a week. … In class you are invited (more like urged) to disagree with one another and with me—and I get to disagree with you—provided we are all respectful of each other and not snide, savage or abusive. … In other words, English 102 is not just a Find-Out-What-The-Teacher-Thinks-And-Regurgitate-It-Back-at-Him course. It’s not like math or physics—there are no right or wrong answers (though there are interesting versus dull, fertile versus barren, plausible versus whacko answers).”
Go read the article, follow the links. It’s fun stuff.