Should Students Study with Sparknotes? Con

L. Stewart

Laila Abtahi

The dispersion of SparkNotes’ booklets amongst high schools and colleges does not erase them from the list of cheating sources.

Yes, SparkNotes would make an excellent review guide to refresh one’s memory after reading a seemingly never-ending novel. However, many students substitute SparkNotes for their entire English book. Just ask the hundreds of thousands of fans on the SparkNotes Facebook page—or even the members of the group “I don’t read my English book; I read SparkNotes instead.”

Correspondingly, an anonymous junior at Miramonte said, “I love SparkNotes. It’s a free homework pass.”

English instructors often argue that SparkNotes lacks the distinctive elements of the book: the voice, extended metaphors, imagery, language, etc. Unfortunately, most students couldn’t care less about SparkNotes lacking a personality. Students are naturally inclined to take the shorter route to achieve their ends, even if that means snipping educational opportunities away.

SparkNotes temporarily assures a student that his or her grade is safe. However, in the long run, consistently resorting to SparkNotes will deflate his or her chances of success. Analyzing short story passages will equate to rocket science, basic words will become foreign, and perhaps most importantly, the “let’s take the easy way out” mentality will penetrate the mind.

If the grade is so important, how will SparkNotes’ devotees perform on a pop quiz where the questions are purposely designed to be specific? What will they do when their teacher assigns an essay on a book that SparkNotes doesn’t cover?

Yes, it’s tough to digest 500 pages of reading when it’s being forced down your throat. However, most teachers understand that students have more subjects on their plate, and that’s why they apportion a manageable chunk of reading ( i.e. 20 pages) per night. To the honors students who yap about how unfair it is to read 150 pages over the weekend; remember, you signed up for the accelerated course. I’m sure you honors students know the requisites and could deduce that the word “honors” would suggest a higher degree of difficulty.

If the issue is subject matter, don’t rely on SparkNotes to treat a headache. In the future, there will be situations where you will have to read boring legal documents and sophisticated letters, and sorry, you can’t “sparknote” them. The only way to enhance reading comprehension is to actually read.

No, absorbing information from SparkNotes is not exactly copying or plagiarizing, but it is definitely cheating yourself. Each time you type “Sparknotes.com” into the address bar, you are falsely telling yourself that you are incapable of accomplishing a very basic task.

When feeling overwhelmed, consult your teacher, not SparkNotes. Telling your teacher that you are having trouble reading on schedule won’t make them think any less of you. Asking questions shows that a student is genuinely making an effort, and who knows, the teacher might accommodate his or her needs and extend the reading deadline. All one has to do is ask. Discussing the raw text with your teacher also helps you to better analyze literature at your our own individual pace. SparkNotes, on the other hand, is not custom-made to develop your skills.

“I would never prohibit my students from using SparkNotes because they have some good ideas,” said English teacher Kate Gordon. “However, [SparkNotes] deprives you of the opportunity to do your own thinking, and when you do your own thinking, you come up with mighty good stuff. Plus, I have found some factual errors on SparkNotes, and you wouldn’t want to use any of those mistakes in your essays.”

The average student reads SparkNotes, but why would you want to be average when you can excel?