Tuesday, February 7, 2006


From a professor in Michigan:

A week ago I assigned 14 pages of reading from our Econ text, the first part of chapter 5. It's not a bad book, not as these things go. There are charts, graphs, even a photo of Tiger Woods that fills half a page. My instructions in class were: "Read the pages from chapter 5, answer question #1 or #2, and be prepared to tell me about a situation in your own past where you were paid for doing something."

I sent an email to my class with the same info 2 days later.

Today I walked into my classroom, my 85 students sitting politely in chairs, books on their laps, smiling, peaceful, the class of someone's dream, perhaps.

I took my coat off, arranged my papers, turned on the microphone and smiled back at them.

"Who wants to start," I said. "Let's start easy and have someone tell me what the main message of the chapter was?"

There was no sound. The peaceful looks vanished. Pages began to flap. I could feel a breeze.

"Well, then let's just talk about a time when you were paid for something. Remember the chapter talks about private transactions versus public transactions."

Nothing again. This is my second year of teaching, but I'm already tired of the bullshit of a dead class. I leaned into the microphone and said, "Don't you know that we came here today so I could help you? Don't you know that I've done the reading? Don't you expect that it's your turn now?"

I guess I looked pretty upset because a few hands went up.

"What," I barked at a girl in the front row.

"Was it chapter 5 or 6 we were supposed to read?"