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This page is used by both Envir. Biology and Gen. Biology I and II.

This is not an English class!

And, neither is it a Geography class nor a Spanish class, and it is definitely not a Sunday school class! However, it is a "college class".

This web page uses geography to discuss the philosophy behind the idea that spelling is important, but it is equally important in the various topics during Blackboard class discussions. However, in this class students must demonstrate knowledge in Geography -- important in many biological field, e.g., biogeography, ecology, and evolution -- which includes SPELLING the geographical names correctly, in order to earn a grade, as taught by Dr. Jan A. Nilsson, South Texas College.

The page also has some inspirational messages about academic quality -- which include correct spelling, legible handwriting (although most of what you will do is done on a computer), and study time. Since many students taking Biology aspire to become teachers, this discussion should interest many of you.

First, what has GEOGRAPHY to do with BIOLOGY? Well, in addition to the fact that there is a whole field within biology called BIOGEOGRAPHY, there is probably several other good reasons, because the textbook contains lots of maps in the chapter texts, and in the Environmental Biology text there are two large fold-out maps in the back of the book, and not to forget fields like ECOLOGY and EVOLUTION.

College faculty is in charge of providing higher education to students and has the duty to resist compromising academic standards to student consumerism -- an expression, which to some students mean "getting our money's worth", but to other students unfortunately mean an "easy A professor". Teachers, not just college professors, are like (or should be) "gatekeepers" or "filters", responsible for deciding what passes as knowledge in a certain discipline, what counts as quality work by students.

Unfortunately not all college administrators agree with the faculty and some appear to think that a college should be run like WalMart -- students should be able to form a line to the Customer Service and get a refund if they don't get a passing grade. Since most STC students don't study more than an average of 20 minutes per day (source: personal research from 1998 - 2007 based on student feedback -- and then I gave up the research), and only 15 - 25 percent of students enrolled at STC graduate (source: Dr. Reed, STC President) -- that would probably be a huge line... x

We all know what WalMart is selling -- products from China like pet food killing dogs and cat, and children's toys painted with lead based paint. No, I don't think we want STC to be like WalMart. If you do, you are in the wrong class. If you do, and aspire to become a teacher -- many students do in this class -- please change career goal -- you are a danger to society! We have enough cheap stuff coming from China -- we don't need it in the field of education. The future of our children is at stake...

At the bottom of this page are some interesting links. When I composed this page in 2006 I Googled this exact quote: "this is not an English class", I got 180,000,000 hits (180 million!), all discussing "the most commonly used excuse" by college students for not spelling correctly (not counting English classes where it cannot be used as an excuse):

"This is not an English class!"

Before we get to the bottom of this page and think about the Google result for "This is not an English class!", let's get some "inspiration" first.

Learning Objectives:

The grades earned on the geography assessments in this class will be based on successfully fulfilling the following learning objectives:

Be able to name a group of pre-assigned geographical names, including spelling the name correctly.

Be able to place pre-assigned geographic names at the correct location using provided maps.

Inspirational message 1 -- on spelling:

Spelling is important! Since the geography assessments in this class require a minimum score before you can continue to the next quiz, students who spell the geography names correctly will OBVIOUSLY earn higher grades than students misspelling the names. It would OBVIOUSLY not be fair to students who have learned the names correctly if the same grade was to be given students who have not learned to spell the names correctly. It is all about EARNING the grade.

Most people enroll in college because they want to become educated. (Actually I am not sure that this is the case anymore, but let us assume that it is, for the sake of this discussion.) Students who think spelling should not be part of the grading in a Biology class, or in any course other than language courses, often argue that "it is not an English class" or "close enough" is good enough or say something dumb like "you know what I mean". These students must understand that knowing how to spell correctly is a distinguishing mark of an educated person. If you misspell "every other word" when you write you don't have the "general language abilities needed for clear, precise, and effective communication", and people will think that you have no education, or a very poor education, or a writing disability. But even people with writing disabilities can better their spelling by working hard. These days we have great tools such as "computer spell checkers" to help students spell correctly -- but it won't help if students refuse to use them.

Most students who are not spelling geographical names correctly do not have a writing disability; they just have the idea that spelling is not important. If you are such a student, and if you want to EARN a good grade in this class, you must quickly change your attitude.

To help students in the Environmental Biology class learn to spell the required geography names, a worksheet is provided (link below) to practice the spelling of the geography names. In this worksheet you write a geography name many times, until you learn to spell it correctly. The method on the worksheet is a very effective way of learning called "studying". If you are in a General Biology class you are not required to learn all the names on the list, but you can select to look at the list if you wish...


These days' professors of all college courses are REQUIRED to include writing (even in math courses), and students are REQUIRED to get the spelling correct. This is called "writing across the curriculum". In courses where you must learn specialized terms, such as geographical names, especially in an interdisciplinary course like Environmental Biology, you must also learn to spell the names correctly. If you cannot learn the names and learn how to spell them correctly -- most students can (they just don't think they should have to), you must accept that you will EARN a lower grade.

Again, Google found 180 million web pages with the exact text "this is not an English class", which discussed the importance of spelling and students obtuse and sometimes imprudent attitude about it. Here is one statement from a college professor for the record:

"I receive e-mails that are darn near impossible to decipher given the poorly spelled words, lack of appropriate word capitalizations, no sentence ending periods, incorrect tenses, an inability to render properly the differences in the words "to," "two," "too," "their," "there," and the list goes on adnauseam. While this is not an English class per se, and recognizing that we all make some inadvertent mistakes (including those in this Syllabus) in the employment of the written language, I will, however, take into account slovenly wrought communications in factoring your grades."

Mark B. McKinley. Lorain County Community College.

Inspirational message 2 -- on handwriting:

Handwriting is important! Unlike a "bubble in" multiple-choice exam -- where handwriting doesn't matter, in a "short answer" and "essay" tests one MUST take care to write so that the answers can be graded. The grader is not supposed to guess the answer. Click here to learn more.

Most students do not have an inherited writing disability. Even students with writing disabilities can write so that a reader CAN read their handwriting -- albeit with difficulties. (If not you better make arrangements for a typewriter.) In reality most students can write legibly, but many students don't because they are SLOPPY writers. The purpose of writing is to communicate something to a reader, unless you just scribble notes for yourself. Sloppy writers rush through what they write without paying attention to that someone is supposed to be able to read the slop.

More often than not poor handwriting comes from students' inability to spell. Consciously or unconsciously students use poor handwriting to mask their inability to spell correctly, in hope that no one will notice the spelling mistakes.

Writing so that the answer can be read, on a test or on worksheets, is SELF-EXPLANATORY -- or at least it should be... x

"This is not an English class... I do expect you to write neatly, if you're handwriting, and I expect your printouts to be clear and dark enough to read easily, anything I can't read will earn you no credit."

Josh Pachter. Cuyahoga Community College.

Inspirational message 3 -- on study time:

If you have problem with spelling, be a good student and face the challenge. College is supposed to be harder than high school. Most students will succeed in college if they try hard. Rule of thumb: Trying hard is an average studying time of minimum 2 - 3 hours per credit hour per week OUTSIDE of class -- depending on what letter grade you desire to EARN. That is, for a 3 hour Environmental Biology class, you may have to study a minimum 6 - 9 hours per week outside of class. For some students this may not be enough.

College not for all (Letter to the Editor)

What right does the Los Angeles Unified School District have to presume that all student learners need or want to attend college? The A-G curriculum will only further the dropout rate. It will only increase the frustration of those students who are truly not active participants in the ownership of their own education.

The LAUSD has its head in the sand. It should bring back vocational training courses for those who are not inclined to follow the path to college.

These students would come to school every day if they had something to look forward to that might interest them. I know that I need a plumber or carpenter more than I'll ever have use for a rocket scientist! Linda Faherty, Simi Valley.

If you cannot put the expected amount of time into your college education you must accept a lower letter grade, or change your life around so that you have time to study 6 - 9 hours per week, or don't go to college. Perhaps a minimum wage job making hamburgers is the right job for you? There is nothing wrong with a minimum wage job. Perhaps vocational training courses, as mentioned in the box above, are an option for you? However, if you want a more challenging career and higher paying job, you will have to take college seriously, enroll in challenging courses, work hard to get good grades, and pay attention to spelling and handwriting.

"Academic Expectations: How Much Should You Study?
We can and will talk about quality study, but if a student isn't putting in the time, worrying about quality is useless. As a rule of thumb, you should plan to study at least two hours a week for every unit of coursework in which you are enrolled. If you are enrolled for 15 units, you should be studying 30 hours per week. This may sound like a lot if you are a first time freshman. But think about it. In high school you were in school five days a week, six hours a day, a total of 30 hours per week. A majority of students report studying an hour a day outside of class. So a typical commitment in time by a high school student for his or her education is around 35 hours per week."

Faculty of the College of Natural Sciences. California State University, San Bernardino.

College is meant to be challenging. If you desire a certain letter grade you must live up to the challenge. This instructor will "hold the line", will not water down the course, will deduct points for misspellings where spelling is important for the course, and will not accept sloppy handwriting on any assignment where handwriting is required.

I came to the United States from Sweden as a student, and I received all my academic degrees here. Even though Swedish is my native tongue, I accepted that English is the language of education in this country, and that I had to spell correctly, and write so people can read my handwriting.

-- If I could do it, you can do it!

Dr. Nilsson

x Here are some other pages you may want to read. Maybe you need a cup of coffee?

ExG_BuBlaPur_NatGeoQ_Whi ExG_BuBlaPin_CollAll_Whi

Do the timid tigers rule the forest?
Do passionless warriors lead the charge?
Do the weakest take the helm in a storm?
Do I lecture to offend not the incompetent or do I lecture to challenge the best?"

-- from the Tao of Teaching, Book 2, by Euoi Lo Ryi.

And although my standards are nowhere near where they used to be, I still could not bring myself to put an A on top of those beauties.
-- Dr. Kane (David Duchovny), in the movie "Evolution", 2001.

180,000,000 Google Hits!

"You're right. This is not an English class. One reason English classes exist is so that you'll be able to write in classes like this. You're a college student; I expect you to write like one."

Sue Frantz, Psychology Professor, Highline Community College.

The most used excuse -- "this is not an English class" (180 million hits!!!)

Those exact six words, in that order!!!
(Below are 15 college links.)

Sociology: "You are correct. This is not an English class. One reason English classes exist is so that you will be able to write in classes like this. You are a college student; I expect you to write like one." Soc 248. Bill Lockhart, New Mexico State University at Alamogordo.

History: "Although this is not an English class, your spelling and grammar do matter a great deal, for the better you communicate your historical thoughts, the better I can evaluate them." History 376. Introduction to Archaeology. Professor Emerson Baker, Salem State College.

Psychology: "Yes, I know this is not an English class. In any case, I will be strict on correct usage of the English language. Especially in an Internet course, but in a regular course as well, you are expressing yourself in writing. Not only is it inconvenient if others cannot read or understand what you have written; it is not appropriate in any college-level course. I require that all formal assignments (anything that is graded; including, but not limited to assignments, answers/responses to discussion questions, etc.) be spell checked, grammar checked, and proofread before submitting or posting." Psyc 33/ Soci 3: Marriage and Family. Dr. Kristina Roberts, Barstow College.

Student Guide: "Since this is not an English class, do I have to worry about my sentences? Is spelling important? Absolutely. It always was, but now the ease of using spell checkers means there's no excuse for misspelled words. You can expect some instructors to lower your grade. You're also responsible for catching errors that your spell checker can't: for instance, don't confuse common words such as affect/effect, its/it's, or there/they're/their. Typos will always occur, but do your very best to find them." Rio Salado College Writing Competency Guide.

History: "Even though this is not an English class, it is a college class, and all college students should be able to write correctly, so deductions will be taken for improper essays." Hist 1302. Wendy Gunderson, Collin County Community College District.

Biology: "Although this is not an English class, too many misspelled words, run-on sentences, fragments, misplaced modifiers, poor composition, etc. will result in a subjective loss of up to 5 points." Biology 3. Danau Sakai, Santa Monica College.

Psychology: "You're right. This is not an English class. One reason English classes exist is so that you'll be able to write in classes like this. You're a college student; I expect you to write like one." Psych 100. Sue Frantz, Highline Community College.

Computer programming: "I did not want to hear students say, "Professor Mosley, this is not an English class."CS 122. Professor Pauline Mosley, Pace University.

History: "But some still do grumble ", This is not an English class."" Blog: Writing essay exams. Theresa Kaminski, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Music: "In my "appreciation" classes I asked for critical reviews of attended concerts (a la NY Times, etc). You would not believe some of the whining I got when I marked down papers significantly for grammar, structure, spelling (no excuse, there), etc. "This is not an English class," a student said. Sorry, dear student, but this is not a junior high grammar class, either, and maybe you need to take remedial English to be competent in the real world. Colleagues, stay the course on this issue!" Music Appreciation. Jack Ballard, Malone College.

Psychology: "Having taught nearly a hundred courses on the Internet, it has become increasingly the case that some students forget that even though there are no walls to the "Internet Classroom" it is still an academic environment with the associated standards of literate and decorous communications. I receive e-mails that are darn near impossible to decipher given the poorly spelled words, lack of appropriate word capitalizations, no sentence ending periods, incorrect tenses, an inability to render properly the differences in the words "to," "two," "too," "their," "there," and the list goes on adnauseam. While this is not an English class per se, and recognizing that we all make some inadvertent mistakes (including those in this Syllabus) in the employment of the written language, I will, however, take into account slovenly wrought communications in factoring your grades. Relatedly, Internet classes seem to have a tendency to bring out negative characteristics in some students which I have not found in land-based classes. In all of my many years of teaching "live" classes on campus I have not encountered the kind of aggressive, demanding, and irrational comments from students (just some) as I have teaching via the Internet. I suspect that the egalitarian atmosphere and anonymity of the "Internet Classroom" is partially the blame, but then too, it may be partially attributable to the general decline of civility in the outer world beyond the Ivory-Tower. And finally, I am mindful of the fact that the above policy will pertain only to a small minority that cause such a "policy" to exist in the first place. Very much like the fact that most of society's laws are existent because of only about 4-7 percent of the population, alas. And so, let us not undermine the learning experience afforded by Web-instruction with negativisms, but instead we all shall use "spell check" and "make nice."" Human Growth and Development. Professor Mark B. McKinley, Lorain County Community College.

Cognitive Retraining: "This is not an English class, but as you will learn in this course, there are important links between language and thought, and I want you to communicate in a credible and professional fashion." CRS 112. Cris Scaglione. Coastline Community College.

Speech: "This is not an English class, so I won't be grading your exam for spelling, grammar or punctuation. I do expect you to write neatly, if you're handwriting, and I expect your printouts to be clear and dark enough to read easily anything I can't read will earn you no credit." SPCH 1000. Josh Pachter, Cuyahoga Community College.

Business: "Although this is not an English class, the ability to effectively communicate one's idea is a critical skill required in the business world and especially in the information systems profession. As a result, the "clarity of presentation" (COP) of your work may have a significant bearing on the grade. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors obviously will cause grade reductions. Be sure to use a spell checker, but don't rely on it to catch all or even most typos." Bus 119A. Professor Larry Gee, The Business School of Silicon Valley.

Environmental Education: "Use proper English for all assignments. This is not an English class, but we expect assignments to be professional. Poor grammar, spelling, organization and language use will result in lower grades." NR365. Dr. Joe Champ, Colorado State University.

Copyright   © 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Jan A. Nilsson. Page created  10.III.2006, last updated  12.VII.2009, most likely during the wee hours of the morning on a G3 PowerBook owned by Jan A. Nilsson.  Web page layout and design © and intellectual property Jan A. Nilsson.  Content on Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice may not be used for commercial purposes.   All rights reserved.  Except for educational purposes and  'fair use' (see below), reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.  If used for educational purposes and 'fair use', including photographs, source must be given.  (Some clip art, texts and backgrounds used on Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice downloaded for educational purposes and/or 'fair use' from Internet free domain has no source.)

-- Disclaimer: "Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice", at the time of writing located as a file under the South Texas College's (STC) web server with the general URL http://www.southtexascollege.edu/, is the intellectual property of Dr. Jan A. Nilsson, member of STC biology faculty. The content of Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice does not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of the STC faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees.

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If anyone feels that his or her material cannot be used this way I will immediately remove it if notified.

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