Hey guys I need your help. No, I am not stuck in a bar with a crazy woman who only wants my body. Can you let that go? That was months ago. I have a restraining order now and I'm doing my best to turn my body into a soft, unattractive mass that no longer tempts crazy ladies. Seriously, why did your mind go there first? Actually my request relates to my first day of advanced philosophy class.
It's the first day of class: Everyone is bored, knowing that we'll probably get out early and be able to knock some of our extensive social obligations that afternoon. Some of us are even coordinating those obligations via text message. I think boredom showed on our faces because the teacher became more animated and worked with each labored sentence earn our attention. She was failing. In my mind, I was already filling out the end of semester class evaluations and marking down her lecture points.
Just when I was in the throes of developing a scathing review, the instructor said something that jolted me from my reverie. She asked a question to which I knew the answer. The question was a hard one -- the sort of thing you learn at the end of first semester philosophy -- but because of the course's prerequisite, I figured about a third of the class would be able to answer correctly, half would get the right answer out of a list of choices on an exam and two-thirds would be able to start toward the right answer with a wandering response.
But I knew the answer. Not only did I know the answer, I had written a paper on the issue in high school, was familiar with the concept's key proponents and detractors and could dissertate on the issue with some ease. She had pitched a slow one right over the plate.
My question: Should I swing?
Late in the semester, when a good participation grade is riding on answers to arcane questions, the correct response would be a no-brainer: Always answer if you think you can even lead in the right direction late in the semester. But early on the equation is different. Many professors base their semester grade on student's ability to learn material through the class. Improvement is valued more than end knowledge. A student who starts with nothing and learns a lot will get a better grade than the student who starts with a lot and learns nothing.
So should I swing? The teacher's silent stare betrayed an expectation. She wanted someone to put themself out there on the first day of class, to answer her query and prove their knowledge. But this is a class stuffed with seniors. We are wary of the bait. And our professor only has an MA! That's only an extra year of education than we have. We simply don't respect her as much as the teacher's who have devoted their lives to their career.
The silence is getting longer. Maybe the other students genuinely are unaware of the answer to the question. NO! They are bluffing. They, too, are familiar with the post-modern grading and effort-based pedagogy of the modern classroom. They are holding back in the hope that I will betray my knowledge and create a harder semester for myself.
Maybe I don't know the answer to the question. Maybe my idea is wrong and I based my paper on faulty assumptions. Doubts creep into my mind and I force them out as the silence stretches on.
The teacher looks disappointed. She wanted an answer. But her savvy class gave her none.
What about it, guys? Did I do the right thing? Should I have answered her question?
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Posted at 6:19 AM