The Case Against Minimum Word/Page Requirements for Students


As I write this headline, I can do nothing else but picture the thousands of teachers shaking their fists in the air and saying something along the lines of “Oh stop complaining! Kids these days are just lazy!”

And for the most part? I actually tend to agree.

But with that being said, a small piece of me dies inside every time I see an assignment handed out with a page or word count requirement attached to it.

Trust me (or don’t but keep reading- it’s good for you) I understand the motivation for doing it. From a teacher’s perspective they probably assume that if they don’t give a required amount of pages/words then they will be swamped with responses lacking any critical thinking and/or insight.

An understandable line of thought? For sure.

Jesus, then what’s the big deal?!

Well, the big deal with minimum page/word requirements is that doing so encourages bullshitting to the tenth degree (in my not so humble opinion).

Instead of students asking themselves “How am I going to write a great paper?” the focus instead becomes “How can I fill X amount of pages?”. Also, I feel compelled to question the logic of encouraging students to write more just for the hell of it. Think about a person you know who takes 15 minutes to spit a 5 minute story out. Don’t you wanna just smack them upside the head and tell them “T-t-t-today junior!” ?

I know I do.

So why is it that we encourage students to make what could be a compelling, intelligent, and to the point 3 page paper into the infamous 10 pager? Is it so we can say we’re challenging them? Is it because educators want to read 3 sentences of information that could be sufficed with one? Is it because it’s fun to watch the students suffering?

The reality of the situation is that by the time students reach university they have had the question of “How long should it be?” programmed to be their first burning question when an assignment is distributed. It’s an issue that starts developing as early as elementary school and it’s not going to change overnight; but we can sure as hell start today.

I honestly could go on forever but I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Cause I just hit the minimum word count.