Statement of Goals

Statement of Goals #

Let us rethink discipline. One of the worst things about the arbitrary form of authority we see in the classroom is the way it makes us lose our trust in the possibility of learning from people who know what they’re doing and could share their wisdom with us. When they make you obey a cruel and unreasonable teacher, they can curtail your desire to learn from a kind and reasonable wise person. When they order you to pick up after yourselves in the cafeteria, they can undermine your own freely-occurring sense of courtesy. Imagine a room full of screaming people: truly, it is much easier if they quiet themselves than it is to forcibly quiet them. The way that today’s schools insist on the latter inhibits people from developing the ability to be quiet and attentive on their own.


In this course, I invite you to define and pursue your own goals. Obviously this is not a fully anarchist or autonomous space—you and I both must still meet the requirements of the university. Thus, your learning goals will need in some way to be related to our class, as it is defined by the registrar. But within that framework, and acknowledging that the framework itself is an “arbitrary form of authority,” my goal is force open the space for you to engage with learning in ways that interest and thrill you.

To help us build this space together, first I need to know you, your interests, and your goals. Please type an informal letter to me (it should be about 700 words) first introducing yourself (your nickname or preferred name, your pronouns, where you’re from, major, interests, etc., and other fun details you want to share), describing your history as a reader of nonfiction or just as a student, and sharing some goals for what’s ahead.

Below are some questions to help guide you (you are not expected to answer all of these; pick a few from the list that most apply to you). At the end of your letter to me, let me know if you have any questions regarding the syllabus or anything discussed in our first class. Then please write a final statement letting me know that you have read and understand the course syllabus and sign the letter. 

Prompts #

  • What kind of reading do you primarily do now (think beyond traditional reading to things like Twitter, Instagram, email, blogging, websites, texting, IM, etc.)?
  • What do you think are your main strengths as a student? Why do you think so? What do you think are your main challenges as a student? Why do you think so?
  • What type of learning (again, think beyond traditional learning in school) have you always liked doing? Disliked? Why?
  • Who has influenced what you’re interested in learning (in either a negative or positive way)?
  • How do you use technology when you learn (for example, using and sharing photos or visuals, composing online, etc.)? How comfortable are you with the technology you use for learning?
  • What strategies or process do you use when you read and where did you learn them? Do you use the same strategies for anything you read, or do they differ depending on what/whom you’re reading for? What are these differences? Do you always read on a computer/tablet/phone?
  • What do you find most difficult about learning? What makes learning easy (or less difficult) for you?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself as a student, what would it be?
  • What goals do you have for your learning this semester? Feel free to be as practical or as whimsical as you like. How will you remind yourself of these goals? How will you know when you’ve achieved your goals?
  • What other personal or academic goals do you have for this semester? For your time in college? How could you use this class to achieve them?