The Four Semester Solution

“The most effective way to learn is by devoting oneself to a single subject for months at a time. Its opposite is school.”—Aaron Haspel, Everything (2015)

IMG_3390For years now, my students have been complaining about the number of subjects they’re required to take at the same time. While most university students take four courses a semester, most CÉGEP students take eight classes a semester! One young women—a very strong student who made the Dean’s List last semester—likened our present system to a big buffet, wherein everything looks and smells delicious, but you’re forced to eat so much, at such great speed, that you don’t really enjoy any of it whilst it’s happening, and you feel sick to your stomach when it’s done.

I propose that we split our existing semesters in two—creating four semesters; finish a week later in December; and add two weeks to the academic year: one at the beginning, in August, and one at the end, in May. We’ll need these three extra weeks to make space for the two new exam periods (one in mid-October and another in mid-March), and the new week-long break we’re going to add to the academic year (mid-October).

The first semester of the academic year would begin in mid-August and end in mid-October. It would be followed by a week-long exam period and a week-long break (Fall Break). The second semester would begin in mid-October and end in mid-December. It would be followed by a week-long exam period and a break from late December to mid-January (Winter Break). The third semester would begin in mid-January and end in mid-March. It would be followed by a week-long exam period and a week-long break (Spring Break). The fourth and final semester of the academic year would begin in early April and end in late May. It would be followed by a week-long exam period and the Summer Break.

Our students could, under this new system, take half as many classes per semester and go into far greater depth with them.

—John Faithful Hamer, Twilight of the Idlers (2017)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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