I remember in my comp & lit classes in high school seeing those annoying yellow-and-black booklets all over the place. I personally never used them. I regarded them as a form of cheating, the literary equivalent of using a calculator for a basic math class instead of working out the equations with a pen and paper.
I almost always got A’s on my composition (occasionally a B when I was being lazy, once a D when I strayed from the orthodox view of What The Story Was About).
As I would wander through the Purgatory that was high school, in the lunchroom, in the library, yes, even in the classroom, I would see students reading the Cliff’s notes. I very seldom saw anyone reading the actual assigned book, just the Cliff’s notes. Yet these kids would generally get the same A or B as I did. I’m not going to deny the possibility that they were reading the actual text of the books at home, but I have my doubts. The required formats for the comps were basic enough that a person could have probably gotten by, and even gotten good grades by reading the Cliff’s notes and letting the actual book gather dust.
Now, maybe “cheating” is too strong a word- using the little black-and-yellow books probably wasn’t any more cheating than using a calculator in a math class where it was permitted. But I must say that I felt a little ripped off. I felt that I had earned my grades through honest hard work, reading the books and putting alot of thought into what the meaning/message was while I was preparing my notes for my composition, while my classmates got the same grades by taking the easy way out and using artificial aids. Basically, they weren’t working as hard, but they were getting the same payoff, academically.
So, what think ye of Cliff’s notes? Are they simply a useful study aid, or are they a crutch for students who are too lazy to read the books or too cerebrally deficient to be able to draw meaning from the text without consulting the oracle?