And speaking of stupid, boycott all the Cliff’s and Monarch and other shortcuts to an easy C which can be found all too easily in every college bookstore. Many of these can also be found on professors’ bookshelves. We read them too. Some of us (may Allah be merciful) write them. At the very least, we eventually come to recognize key sentences from them from the many times innocent undergraduates have repeated them. I even had one lame-brain student list the Monarch Notes edition of a text in his bibliography.
The biggest problem with these notes is not that they save you from having to work or even think, but that they are altogether simple-minded when not outright wrong. They are written for consensus. That is, they represent the lowest common denominator of opinion about any given text, and that is pretty low. Their generalities are about as insipid as you can get for the simple reason that any opinion we academics all agree on has to be pretty vague. Think of a politician who has managed to run for president offending neither the AFL-CIO nor the Wall Street Journal, neither Louis Farrakan nor the ACLU, neither the right-to-lifers nor NOW? This person may have no enemies, but he or she is not going to have any friends either. When I teach Moby Dick, after spending considerable effort unveiling many of the complex layers of significance in the chapter titled “The Whiteness of the Whale,” if I have any time left at the end of class I read the banal comments found in one of the standard cribnotes. Most of the students get the point.
We teachers also know about the wonders of the internet and occasionally check out sites like www.schoolsucks.com. Resist the temptation to hand in someone else’s work as your own. We have access to software which runs through all the texts on the net and locates plagiarized phrases and sentences, as well as paragraphs. After I told my composition class last semester about this new software, a stunned silence filled the room until one student meekly asked, “Is that software up and running yet?”