By Caroline Feghaly
LAU Tribune staff
While choosing their electives, some students ignore the fact that the Liberal Arts curriculum –the program with which LAU prides itself– is based on reading and critical thinking. They opt for courses that require no-to-little reading from the selected textbooks.
A member of CopyHouse, who wished to remain anonymous, said that most of the store’s customers –enrolled students at LAU– purchase textbooks as the semester’s conclusion draws near.
“I am surprised when a student comes to us during the finals’ period to buy the readings. Some even ask us what chapters are assigned for the exam,” he said.
Reading books has become a nuisance and a rare practice among students at LAU – especially those who are not majoring in humanities.
Kristiaan Aercke, an associate professor of cultural studies, English and comparative literature, said that only a quarter of his students read. He does not expect more and reveals that he is “inclined to believe it’s cultural.”
While the fear of being ridiculed if spotted reading preoccupies some Lebanese students, Aercke explains how students in the United States carry backpacks filled with books so that they read when they take the bus or the subway.
Aercke says that, when students enter his office, they are amazed at the number of books he has.
After conducting a survey amongst 50 LAU students, I found out that 62 percent do not read, leaving only 38 percent who actually do.
“People are not used to seeing books around. Satisfying curiosity in reading is not encouraged in this society,” he said.
Students prove him right. “I read from Sparknotes especially if it is a non-major course that I am not interested in,” Nathalie Hamadeh, a 21-year-old graphic design student, said.
“I do not think it will benefit me anyways,” she added.
Mona Nabhani, an associate professor at the education department, is annoyed that only about 25 percent of students come to her class having read the required material. And while she says that “laziness” is a factor which makes students read less, she believes that reading is not a habit in Lebanon.
Brian Prescott-Decie, an English instructor, cultural studies and history, said that guests’ parents were “puzzled” when he and his wife presented them with Lady Bird as souvenir.
With the culture of reading fading throughout the globe, Decie limits his students’ reading homework. He does not expect more than half of his students to read if he increased the load.
Rima Bahous, associate professor at the education department, said students can strengthen their understanding of the subject by reading the assigned textbooks.
Bahous said that reading is a habit that grows when it is overseen by parents and schools before students proceed with their university studies, “students do not read due to lack of habit,” Bahous said. “The responsibility, for that, lies on both parents and schools. Students should be trained to read from a young age.”
Bahous said, however, that students are given the basics in classes.
Nour Daouk, an 18-year old interior design student, depends on the information that instructors give her during class instead of reading the material.
“I would rely on my memory of what the professor explained during class. I pay attention,” she said.
Others read summaries of books on websites such as Sparknotes.
“I go to Sparknotes because it is easier. All the information comes in one bulk. In the end, it’s just a course and I need to pass it,” Ahmad Assaad, a 21-year-old business student, said.
Meanwhile, Nabhani says that LAU instructors today try to promote modern learning strategies but confirms that students undermine the learning process when they barely read what is asked of them.
“We work to promote active learning strategies. But, students are not reading the texts before class in order to participate in student engagement. This is why we are not succeeding,” Nabhani said.
There are still students who enjoy reading though. Rasha Awada, a 21-year-old political science student, loves to read because, as she puts it, “it’s good for the brain.”
Another example is Wael Hamdan, a 19-year-old business major. Hamdan believes that slides and Sparknotes are not enough to make him grasp the full the knowledge he may acquire through reading full texts.
Aercke asks his students to open their minds and to understand that LAC courses contribute to their learning, whatever their majors.
Despite the lack of it on campus, reading remains the agreed-upon method to acquire knowledge and attain success. “The most leading business people in the world, hold a degree in humanities. Not in business,” Aercke said.