A Lesson

Imagine you’ve been working with your students on productive strategies for paraphrasing and summarizing. Imagine you’ve been working with them on properly formatting their quotations and lists of Works Cited, as well. Imagine that you offer them a passage from a text and a set of ways of using that passage that are either (1) acceptable, (2) plagiarized, (3) erroneous, or (4) both plagiarized and erroneous. You ask them to work in pairs to come up with evaluations and rationales for those evaluations.

Does the fact that one pair of students uses the scissors, paper, rock method of evaluation to arrive at their decisions indicate to you that this is (1) the last class on a Friday afternoon, (2) the last class on a Friday afternoon, or (3) the last class on a Friday afternoon?

My boss came by and stood in the door and watched while this was happening, and we couldn’t do anything other than laugh. The cadets in question already had the answers, and were clearly making fun of the instructorial panopticism. I don’t know how to adequately describe the situation, aside from saying that my boss is both a PhD scholar and an Infantry branch Lieutenant Colonel, and all eyes in the classroom immediately noted his rank. And as for the cadets in question: well, if you’re going to get in trouble for doing something, and you’ve been spotted doing it, why stop?

There’s something about the authoritarian structure here that promotes a counterhegemonic engagement in (a very few) certain students; an engagement I’ve seldom seen elsewhere. And I’ll confess: I like that engagement.

A Lesson

3 thoughts on “A Lesson

  • October 7, 2006 at 7:30 am

    Heh. I was never a military cadet (obviously), but I did once “prove” in high school that Keats was a pedophile based on “Ode to Autumn,” because the assignment was so bloody stupid and beneath us.

  • October 7, 2006 at 11:30 am

    I once convinced an entire Political Theory class (about 12 students) to skip the final as a symbolic protest. In a Martin Luther’esque moment we posted our notice of revolt on the door and walked away. We watched from afar as our professor found the note. ……He smiled…….and gave us all A’s.

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